Today’s deep dive looks at another set of proposals from the White House’s 2017 budget: “Empowering All Americans with the Education and Skills They Need.” Education policy has been one of IWF’s core issues from day one (for a full rundown, check out our work on school choice here, and on common core here). Using that as a starting point, here are some of the more problematic proposals in the budget:

  • An additional $82 billion over the next 10 years to “ensure that all low- and moderate-income working families with young children have access to high-quality, affordable child care.” As a working mother of two toddlers, I understand the problem of finding child care – and the tremendous expense associated with full time care. The President’s budget mentions increasing subsidies in order to provide better compensation for child care workers. Oddly, the White House fails to acknowledge one factor that has historically impacted child care workers’ salaries, often against their will… forced union dues (an issue that the Supreme Court ruled on in 2014).
  • $9.6 billion for the Head Start program, an increase of $434 million over 2016. Although it’s a well-intentioned program that promotes school readiness, last year my colleague Vicki Alger dissected Head Start’s weaknesses, including both its massive cost-per-pupil as well as the virtually nonexistent impact the program has had on students. As Vicki notes, “What we really need to be doing is letting parents choose the preschool options they think are best. How? Let parents who can afford to do so pay for whatever preschool they wish and then take a dollar-for-dollar credit off their taxes. For parents who cannot afford to do so, establish Early Education Savings Accounts (EESAs), based on Arizona’s successful K-12 ESA model. Instead of funneling more money into Head Start, deposit what would have been spent on a child into parents’ EESAs, annually adjusted according to family income and size.”
  • $15.4 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. There are bad schools out there, and unsafe schools, and challenging environments that make it difficult – if not impossible – for students to thrive. But solving this problem is not a matter of throwing more money at schools. Students are trapped in places where they are not set up for success – so adding a few after school programs and a computer lab aren’t going to fix that underlying issue. Empowering students to transfer to a school that better meets their needs – be it safety, or special education, or a non-traditional curriculum – would. That’s why we support school choice programs in any and every form possible: tax credits, vouchers, and education savings accounts. Schooling is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and children learn differently. It’s past time for families to be able to choose the programs that work best for them – not what’s most convenient for bureaucrats and administrators.
  • $22.5 billion in discretionary funding for the Pell Grant program (in addition to mandatory federal funding). As the Department of Education helpfully points out, “A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid.” So… free money for college?! Yet as University of Tennessee professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds (aka Instapundit) proves in his 2014 book The New School, such funding has created a “bubble” in the higher education market. A synopsis of Reynolds’ book at The Blaze notes, “As a natural consequence of the money sloshing around in higher education, schools raised their tuitions, leading to a divergence between artificially-inflated price and value, and leaving ‘legions of students deep in debt without improving their job prospects.’ A particularly perverse aspect of the increase on the cost side is that as Reynolds notes, the majority of cost growth ‘according to a 2010 study by the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, comes from administrative bloat, with administrative staff growing at more than twice the rate of instructional staff.’”
  • $5.5 billion to help more than one million young people gain work experience. Indeed, youth unemployment rates remain dismal, as BLS numbers prove. But again, this is very much a government-created problem. For one thing, raising the minimum wage has meant that businesses are loathe to pay high hourly rates for employees who may not deserve such salaries in entry-level positions; some fast food restaurants have been experimenting with robots to save on labor expenses. In addition, Hadley predicted in 2012 that insurance mandates in the Affordable Care Act would also contribute to increased unemployment, because the cost of workers’ compensation packages would increase; without a doubt this has also played a factor.

The White House has identified a number of problems in the education field – but unfortunately, their solutions are both expensive and misguided.