Please listen up. We are all being conned by the Obama administration. This year, the American taxpayer will fork over about $571 billion to pay for educating children in the nation’s public schools. All told, the country spends close to $16,000 per student every year on primary through college education. That’s the highest per-student spending rate in the world.
However, according to President Obama, it’s not enough. He wants more tax dollars, especially for “early education.” He said so in his State of the Union address, and it drew big-time applause from his crew. Of course we need to spend more on education. And anyone who opposes that hates kids!
The centerpiece of the president’s early-education vision is the “Head Start” program, which has been in place since 1965. Over the past 48 years, the feds have spent close to $200 billion on Head Start. But there’s one big problem: The program is not working.
According to a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services, by the end of third grade, Head Start children remain academically disadvantaged compared to their same-age peers. So why did the president not mention that? Why is he still pounding the drum for more funding for a program that is not cutting it?
The answer is social engineering.
Obama will not say this, but one of his devoted followers, Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz, will. What the left really wants is to redistribute income through the public education system.
In a recent New York Times column, Stiglitz called for the following:
• More spending on preschool education.
• More spending on before- and after-class programs.
• More entitlements to ensure that pregnant women are protected from “environmental hazards.” That means increased payments to prospective moms for better food, housing and medical care.
And the topper:
• Direct cash payments to parents of poor children who make sure their kids participate in school programs and show up for class. If that ever comes to be, America essentially will be paying parents to parent.
It is all about control. Obama believes the deck in America is stacked against the poor and wants to get lower-income citizens as much cash and as many entitlements as he can. Masking those payments under “more money for education” is a clever way to do that.
It is certainly true that poor children have a much tougher academic road than affluent kids. And smart educational policy can close that gap. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told me the reason Head Start is not delivering is that it doesn’t concentrate enough on reading. In many school districts, it is primarily a babysitting service.
As a former high school teacher and a student in a class of 60 urchins at St. Brigid’s grammar school, I know that education is all about discipline and motivation. Disadvantaged students need extra attention, a stable school environment and enough teacher creativity to stimulate their imaginations. Those things are not expensive.
But that’s not all of what federal education spending is about, is it? It’s also about redistributing income. We are being conned big time. And it’s the kids who suffer the most because of it.
• Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” and author of the book “Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama.”