School House Pork

The trendy thinking might be that you’re loopy if you call for ending the U.S. Department of Education, or if you think the Constitution should actually have some bearing on federal education policy. Reality, however, strongly suggests that you’d be crazy not to think that way. If you have doubts, I urge you to read Pork 101: How Education Earmarks School Taxpayers, a new report on federal education “help” from the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).   

To start things off, the report succinctly summarizes the role the Constitution gives the feds in education: “The U.S. Constitution provides no role to the federal government in education.”

That’s not entirely accurate—the 14th Amendment empowers Washington to prohibit state and local discrimination in the provision of  schooling, and the feds can control education in DC—but otherwise Washington really has zero constitutional authority to meddle in education.

Right after stating this, the report lays out the big ball of nothin’ we’ve gotten from decades of federal meddlin’ and spendin’. Some of the charts might be familiar

Finally, the paper shines a light on the root problem with federal involvement: It ultimately serves the interests of politicians and special interests, not children or the public. Indeed, by focusing on education pork—legislative earmarks that go directly to favored constituencies—the report highlights politicians literally glorifying themselves with “education” dough.

There’s $1 million, for instance, to establish the Howard Baker School of Government at the University of Tennessee. Another $6 million for the William F. Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State. There’s $5 million for the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Global Affairs Institute at Syracuse University. $1 million for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. $2 million to the City College of New York for the now-infamous Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service. And tens-of-millions for “Harkin Grants,” which are named after Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee chairman Tom Harkin. That’s the same Tom Harkin who has been raking for-profit colleges over the coals for, basically, serving themselves with taxpayer dollars. 

Maybe they learned it by watching you, Senator Harkin.

There are many more examples of taxpayer-funded politician-aggrandizement in the report, as well as lots of other cuts of pig.  Take it all in if you can stand it, then give some thought to who’s really nutty when it comes to federal education policy. The answer should be pretty clear.