Question: What do you get when you have a clown car’s quantity of Presidential aspirants under the Democratic Party banner?

Answer: A cavalcade of giveaway and spending promises.

Kamala Harris, perhaps feeling left out in the cold by the loss of her front-runner status to first Bernie then Biden, recently tried to “gotcha” Trump by tweeting:

She fleshes out her proposal on her website.

The problem with her plan is found in history: steadily increased per-student spending has not produced improvements in education. Per-student spending, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has tripled since 1970. In that span, staffing has doubled even though enrollment has remained relatively flat and test results show no gains and even some regression.

Let me repeat that: We’ve tripled per-student spending, and doubled the worker-to-student ratio, and have seen no improvement in results. Harris’s proposal is full of rhetoric about teacher pay gaps vs other professions and about failure to provide teachers with resources to do the job they’re tasked with, i.e. educate America’s children, and it promises “the largest federal investment in teacher pay in history.” The overt implication is that more dollars equals better results. The obvious lesson of history, however, is the opposite.

Here’s the reality: Without changes in the system itself, all this additional money won’t accomplish a hill-of-beans difference. And, the chance that Harris or any other Democrat would risk the wrath of the teachers’ and other educators’ unions (which, like most other public unions nowadays, are most concerned with protecting their lousiest members and getting more money for less work) by suggesting changes that might actually make things better.

If Harris was serious, she could improve education without spending an additional dollar of taxpayer money (and probably even cutting costs).

First, as the linked article shows, non-teacher staffing has grown far faster than the student population. Administrators and bureaucrats are necessary, up to a point, but they’re a mostly non-productive expense that displaces money that could go to teachers. This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever worked in a big company or organization. Middle management takes care of itself and pads its ranks before it even bothers to think of the rank-and-file. Cut some of those staffers, and teacher pay could easily be improved.

Second, she could challenge the unions.

I’ll wait until you stop laughing. Unions and their stranglehold over public education are the biggest impediment to improvements in performance. As I noted, they seem far more intent on protecting the worst performers, preventing the best from being rewarded too much, getting more for less, and keeping their ranks populated, than on actually educating kids. One look at what Eva Moskowitz’s (non-union) Success Academies have accomplished in New York City, despite massive opposition from the teachers’ unions and the politicians they own, tells the tale.

Third, she could take a cue from the left-left who fawn over the Nordic economic model, and adopt one of its positives: school vouchers. Yes, that shining icon of “how things should be” (not really, though – our leftists only want the ‘giveaway’ half of the Scandinavian system) includes 100% vouchered school choice – including for private schools. This idea is such utter anathema to the Democratic party that even hinting at it for America would guarantee a candidate’s immediate defenestration from the aforementioned clown car – at highway speed, no less.

Harris’s overture regarding teachers is pandering to the unions and to the people who’ve been snookered into believing that we underspend on education. In fact, America is already top per-student spender in the world. By a lot, and yet it lags nations that spend FAR less.

In short, it’s not about the money. There’s already plenty of it in education.

That won’t matter to Harris, though, because the solutions are not what her base and the all-important unions have any interest in hearing. Like any politician, her first goal is to get elected, and in this battle-royale of Democratic candidates, it is increasingly the case that the biggest panderer gets the most attention. She’s selling two premises: that there’s not enough money in education, and that pumping more into it will make things better. That’s a a non-solution to an incorrect blame. Sadly, it’ll probably get her some attention. Or, it’ll force the other candidates to make the same wasteful and counterproductive promise. Whether she wins or loses, nothing will get fixed.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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