Friday, February 05, 2010

The Department of Education

I had a bit of a shock the other day while considering the issues being highlighted by the Tea Party that I couldn’t really say what the hell the Department of Education, an agency some Tea Party supporters are proposing we abolish, actually did.

The good news is that this is the Age of the Internet so I surfed on over to the DOE website. There I read the Mission Statement, the “What we Do” page, the “What we don’t Do” page and perused the list of assorted programs.

As far as I can tell the DOE does three primary things. It provides money in the form of grants and loans for education, it enforces laws against discrimination in programs that receive federal funds and it measures the performance of schools through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Overall it sounds like it’s primarily in the business of taking money from John and Paul and giving it to Jim. One has to wonder how one can do that when the money from John and Paul has already been spoken for. So perhaps more accurately, the DOE borrows money from China and lends it to American students and school districts while eating some of it for providing the service.

The DOE claims its mission is:

“The mission of the Department of Education is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

Well, I’d say based upon where American students stack up against students from other countries and the typical disparities between whites and blacks in the U.S. they’re not exactly doing a bang up job now are they?

They also apparently run the federal college student loan program. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) form so that’s not going win any sympathy from me.

The discretionary budget for the DOE is around $50 billion. A mere drop in the bucket these days perhaps but it still represents about $166 from each of us. I’m sort of wondering whether I could do something better with that $166?

That would cover 92% of my World of Warcraft subscription.

They also administer Pell Grants which are outright gifts to college students to cover tuition and other expenses rather than loans. Pell Grants do not have to be paid back.

Some of the appropriations read like a satire. Check this one out.

$3.5 billion over 7 years for a College Access and Completion Fund, which would make grants to States, institutions of higher education, and other organizations to support innovative strategies to increase the number and percentage of students entering and completing college.

What’s wrong with this picture? Here I always thought that college was something just about everyone wanted to enter and complete, if they were capable of doing so, and that usually it was MONEY that was standing in the way. How about using this money to REDUCE TUITION COSTS! That would work.

I also notice funding appropriated for simplifying the FAFSA. NOW you’re going to simplify it?

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that the DOE probably hasn’t come close to providing me adequate value for the money it has cost me in taxes over the years. More than likely it has siphoned money away from myself, my town and my family and spent it on maintaining itself and on other people, towns and families.

I suspect we can do without most of what this agency does. The more I read about this place the more a picture forms in my mind of self important political appointees leading a bunch of know nothing bureaucrats around and not accomplishing a whole lot other than killing trees and spending money.

Of course, I could be wrong.

I must be in a bad mood. I mean, I work for a living. I’m not sure why I should be contributing to a program like the “College Access and Completion Fund.” Hell, if you don’t want to go, or can’t cut it, go flip burgers at Mickey D’s.

Here’s another one.

$123.3 million for Developing Hispanic-serving Institutions, an increase of 5 percent, to help ensure that Hispanic students, half of whom enroll in Hispanic-serving institutions, have access to high quality postsecondary education.

WTF is a “Hispanic-serving Institution” and why do we need to develop them? Can’t they just attend the same old local colleges that everyone else attends? Why do they need “Hispanic-serving Institutions?” Whatever the f--k they are.

I sort of sympathize with blacks because (1) most of their ancestors got dragged over here against their will and (2) I remember segregation and the 1950’s. I don’t have that same kind of empathy for Hispanics. I’m not even sure why Hispanics are a “minority” and Italians, Irish, Germans and god damned Danes aren’t. I’m an Austrian-Italian mutt. Where do I go and apply for my minority benefits?

Wow, here I am, racist in training.

I’m really not. I just don’t understand how it’s decided who needs special help, who doesn’t and what that special help is. Who is reviewing the effectiveness and benefits of these kinds of programs? I sort of get the feeling that once a program gets going, it becomes increasing hard to shut it down as time goes by regardless of whether or not it’s accomplishing anything that justifies the money being spent.

I think if I was ever elected president (heaven forbid), the first thing I would do is have a team of people review the value of every ongoing program in any agency and shut down the ones that weren’t returning an adequate return for the investment.

Luckily I’m not about to be elected president anytime soon but it does give me an idea for an interesting post entitled “If I were Elected President.” Think I’ll go work on that one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.