Saturday, May 12, 2012

At the intersection of Delaware and Gary Johnson

Expect to start seeing this
more often.
On his C-Span interview the other day, Gary Johnson said something that bothered me enough to start thinking about it hard.

He was talking about cutting the Federal budget by 43%.  One of the things he said was that then, in areas like education, the Feds would send the states block grants for 43% less, but with all the strings removed.

Realizing that this is sound-bite campaign rhetoric, and that the devil is always in the details, I wanted to see how that would work out in practice.

Delaware was awarded $112 for Race to the Top, with--of course--multiple, even strangling Federal strings attached.

Cutting that by 43% would have meant that Delaware only received $63,840,000.

But with no strings, look what could have happened:

DEDOE could have kept $6.84 for itself (I'm sure they could have found something bureaucratically interesting to do with the money) and handed each school district in Delaware $3 million.

Free and clear:  a one-time windfall of $3 million.

For Laurel, it would have meant not having to lay off teachers and other employees, or cut programs.  AND the district could then have banked the remaining $2.58 million.

For Red Clay it would have meant that Lewis, Mote, Richardson Park, Heritage, and Warner could each have received $500-600K to really push programs for the district's most seriously "at risk" population.

For Christina, think about how much more the new Early Childhood Education Center could do with $3 million.

Yes, I know that some of the money would have been frittered away at different administrative levels.

But I am willing to bet heavily the more money would have ended up in more place to do more good for more students if Delaware had received just under $64 million free and clear rather than $112 million with Partnership Zones, data consultants, incentive programs, et al, ad nauseum.

Am I willing to endorse all education funds being block granted directly to the states at such a discount?

Not quite yet, for two reasons.

Reason Number One:  I barely trust DE DOE any more than I trust US DOE.  That's why I figured I might as well count on the bureaucrats skimming 10% of the money at the outset.

Reason Number Two:  There are areas in which states and localities do require some oversight.  Special education funding and services comes to mind here, as well as gender equity in athletics.  But I think that those (and comparable) issues are a much smaller portion of what needs to be the government role in education, and that returning from having two cabinet level offices (Health and Human Services plus Education) to one (Health, Education, and Welfare) would not be a disaster by any mean.s

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