Thursday, February 09, 2006

Readin', Writin' and Bullshitmetic

In the State of the Union Address President Bush said, "And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people -- and we're going to keep that edge."

But prior to that he said, "Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities."

And now the White House budget says that 42 of those 140 programs slated to get the ax are education programs. According to the AP they are:

Educational technology state grants, $272 million
Even Start, $99 million

High school programs terminations:
Vocational education state grants, $1,182 million
Vocational education national programs, $9 million
Upward Bound, $311 million
GEAR UP, $303 million
Talent search, $145 million
Tech prep state grants, $105 million
Smaller learning communities, $94 million
Safe and Drug-Free Schools state grants, $347 million

Elementary and secondary education program terminations:
Parental information and resource centers, $40 million
Arts in education, $35 million
Elementary and secondary school counseling, $35 million
Alcohol abuse reduction, $32 million
Civic education, $29 million
National Writing Project, $22 million
Star Schools, $15 million
School leadership,$15 million
Ready to Teach, $11 million
Javits gifted and talented education, $10 million
Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners, $9 million
Comprehensive school reform, $8 million
Dropout prevention program, $5 million
Mental Health integration in schools, $5 million
Women's Educational Equity, $3 million
Academies for American History and Civics, $2 million
Close-Up fellowships, $1 million
Foundations for Learning, $1 million
Excellence in Economic Education, $1 million

Higher Education Programs:
Education demos for students with disabilities, $7 million
Underground Railroad Program, $2 million
State grants for incarcerated youth offenders, $23 million

Postsecondary Student Financial Assistance Programs:
Perkins Loan cancellations, $65 million
Leveraging educational assistance programs, $65 million
Byrd Scholarships, $41 million
Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational opportunity, $3 million
B.J. Stupak Olympic scholarships, $1 million

Vocational rehabilitation programs:
Supported employment, $30 million
Projects with industry, $20 million
Recreational programs, $3 million
Migrant and seasonal farmworkers,$2 million
Teacher Quality Enhancement, $60 million

Total $3,468 million

You can imagine the White House thinking on some of these. Byrd Scholarships go because the Senator from West Virginia, despite his love of any presidential appointee, gives Bush fits on Iraq. Thurgood Marshall was the anti-Clarence Thomas, so expunging funds named after him can't hurt. The Javits money might be named after a Republican, but he was a New York Jew, so how truly Republican could he have been? Arts in Education and the National Writing Project will only lead to more liberals in the long run, like all those literary, artsy-fartsy types who turn good cowboys into gays. As for Women's Educational Equity, more women are in college now than men, so how can they say they don't have equity?

It gets harder to imagine how Bushco decided the Perkins Loans don't work. These loans, which help 630,000 students nationwide attend college, were created as part of the original National Defense Education Act (NDEA), Congress' reaction to the 1958 Soviet launch of Sputnik. You would think Bush would put a premium on national defense, given Veep-the-Creep Cheney spends most of his time shouting booga-booga at people, hoping to get us to fear and not think. What seems even odder is that while $65 million for Perkins Loans are due to be cut, according to the Association of American Universities in "its FY 2006 budget request, the Department of Defense requested $10.3 million for a new National Defense Education Program (NDEP). This program would provide scholarships and fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students entering critical fields of science, mathematics, engineering, and languages in return for a commitment of national service after completion of their studies." That is, obviously, only 1/6 of the money, but it's also putting education money under the control of the Department of Defense. Look out, students, Dean Rumsfeld says if you don't pass your exams, you're off to Gitmo!

I also feel much anger about the idea that cutting Upward Bound is a wise decision. I taught at Penn State's Upward Bound Math & Science Initiative from 1991-1994. (Yes, there was a big writing component, but they didn't put it in the title so as not to scare away the kids.) I could blog for days about the wonderful experiences, the lives changed, the diverse mix of super small town country kids with kids city-tough, the letters--many actual snail-mail letters as email was just really getting popular in those primitive days--from students who made it to college and succeeded and learned and matured.

Of course, anything I can say is merely anecdotal, and not the way to base important government decisions, unless one is trying to prove welfare is bad and can imagine a woman picking up her check in a Cadillac. It seems, though, that the "analytical" reason Upward Bound might get the boot is as follows, according to the Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel (WESTOP):

Q: Why Should Upward Bound Students Be Punished for the Department of Education Failures as Noted in OMB’s Upward Bound “PART Score?” What is “PART?”

A: “PART” is an assessment rating system developed by the Office of Management and Budget to “grade” the effectiveness of Federal agencies and federally funded programs. It has four components: Program Purpose & Design, Strategic Planning, Program Management, and Results. The most heavily rated section is “Results.” Under “Results” Upward Bound received a 17% score.

Fully 50% of the Results score can be attributed to the fact that “The Department of Education recently finalized its goals and targets for Upward Bound but does not yet have information to measure program progress.” (OMB PART Score, p. 450) This is true despite the fact that colleges sponsoring Upward Bound programs have been submitting individualized data on long-term program outcomes for over ten years. The Department just has not bothered to analyze it.

I see--Upward Bound doesn't work since we haven't analyzed the data to be sure it works. Kind of like the FBI not getting through all its leads prior to 9/11 or the NSA not being able to sift through all the non-warranted wire-taps now. You'd assume we could solve all the country's unemployment problems just by sending everyone to DC to pitch in and mine some data.

There is one last kicker from that WESTOP site: "Despite the fact that the Department of Education’s Budget totals $69.4 billion, no program educating students has been rated effective."

So I guess that means Bush can cut all of it if he wants. AG Gonzales is probably scheming the way to argue that the authorization of force passed by Congress means Bush can set the budget himself, too. This is a war, after all.


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