Monday, February 13, 2006

Teaching the Edjumacation President

There are any number of things I would enjoy seeing the traditional media use to hold the administration's feet to the fire. Where is Osama? How are things going in NOLA? Aren't tax cuts for the wealthy a pre-9/11 mindset too? We read about these problems in the blogosphere, but a majority of people still get their news from sources that do not cover anything deeper than the soundbite du jour (Cheney's Got a Gun; making Duck and Cover relevant to a post-9/11 world).

My pet ignored issue is Bush's record on education. When W campaigned as a compassionate conservative, a keystone of his stance was to leave no child behind educationally. In signing the act into law in January 2003, the president committed to a fifty percent increase in federal assistance to bring failing schools to acceptable levels. Since that time, while demands on districts have skyrocketed due to NCLB testing requirements, funding has dropped to levels below that from when President Clinton left office.

Furthermore, a recent Harvard study shows that for this administration, it is not what you know, but who you know that counts. Wealthier, more well-connected states have no problem finding loop-holes or receiving waivers to NCLB demands, while poorer ones are left under-funded and out-of-luck. Not that gulf coast residents would be surprised by this finding, just looking at the disparity of treatment between Mississippi and Louisiana in disaster relief.

In his SOTU address, Bush made a push for education funding in the maths & sciences, seeing that as the future of jobs in the United States, now it has outsourced all manufacturing and tech-service overseas. It is difficult to take Bush's commitment to science seriously though, given he: believes "intelligent design" should be taught in the nation's classrooms; has eliminated federal funding for the most promising medical tech opportunity, stem cell research; and actively tries to stifle research and communication by national scientists studying global warming.

Combine W's dismal credibility on the subject with the lack of follow-through in funding anything he proposes (NCLB, Iraq, Katrina) and add the current budget cuts to Pell grants and Perkins loans needed by lower income students to afford college. There results a zero percent chance that education in general, and the sciences in particular, will receive the attention from government it deserves. You'd hope the national media would keep such a universal issue in its regular rotation of talking points, but edjumacation just doesn't have the ring to it Quailgate does.