Jewish World Review
April 6, 2000 /1 Nissan, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- UH-OH. It looks like Texas Gov. George W. Bush has been smoking some strange remnants from President Clinton's ideological ashtray.
The GOP presidential candidate who balked when he was compared to Clinton now wants to spend $5 billion – yup, that's a "b" as in boondoggle – to create a classically Clintonian federal program to combat childhood illiteracy. Clinton had proposed a similar jihad three years ago with a more "modest" $2.75 billion pricetag.
In Virginia last week, Bush laid out his alarmingly liberal proposal for increasing the federal government's role in education. Sounding more like Lyndon Johnson than Ronald Reagan, Bush asserted that illiteracy was a "crisis" that "therefore requires a national response." Bush's "Reading First" program would dole out $1 billion in federal funds each year to help public school teachers identify early reading problems in kindergarten through second grade with diagnostic tests. Teachers would then get additional training and learn how to teach reading effectively.
Weren't these certified, college-educated teachers supposed to know how to teach effectively when they got hired in the first place?
After receiving their tax-subsidized remedial training under the Bush plan, public school teachers would then "intervene" to help problem readers in after-school, summer school, and tutoring programs. Bush's goal is that every child be able to read "by the end of third grade." It's as lousy and mediocre a goal for the most prosperous nation in the world as when Clinton set the same third-grade reading standard in his 1997 State of the Union address.
Yes, illiteracy is a problem. But the federal government already spends nearly $10 billion on more than dozen programs that focus on promoting literacy (not to mention the untold time and money expended by private organizations, non-profit and religious groups, and individual volunteers). On top of that, governments at all levels in the U.S. spend another $40 billion on special education – with a large chunk earmarked for learning-disabled children with reading problems.
Such election-year pandering to the educrats is to be expected from Democrats. Vice President Al Gore has offered billions of dollars for higher teacher salaries and subsidizing pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. But Bush almost out-Clintons Clinton and Gore by throwing in another $30 million for the expansion of a nationwide "troops to teachers" program; $400 million for additional teacher training; and an annual $400 tax deduction for teachers who buy classroom supplies with their own money.
If Bush is truly committed to rewarding educational success, rather than trying to buy off some votes from the teachers unions, where are all the generous incentives and tax breaks for private school teachers and parents who homeschool?
Do we really need another set of tax-subsidized exams to see how incompetent public schools are at teaching kids the basics, how meaningless their purported standards are, and how utterly unaccountable the government education monopoly is and always will be without true competition?
While he voices muted support for redirecting some wasted federal funds to parental school vouchers, Bush has not breathed one word about cutting a single existing, failed program. Instead, he has distanced himself from fiscal conservatives. "I won't close down the Department of Education, but I will reform it," Bush vows. "The goal is not to cut the most, but to improve the most."
So much for devolution. Read George W.'s lips: The road to the White House
is paved with kinder, bigger spending. When it comes to slashing the
insatiable federal education bureaucracy once and for all, mum's the
04/04/00: The liberal media-in-training