Sometimes kids, like their parents, don’t choose the correct tense
for their verbs. But what’s worse, though endearingly cute, is when they
butcher their incorrectly chosen words.

For example, I asked my 3-year-old daughter, “How do you know?” Her
response was not, “I just know.” She chose to use the past tense, but
she didn’t say, “I just knew.” She decided to use the wrong tense and
more, “I just knoweded (pronounced NODID) it.”

As I was typing these words, perhaps intuiting that I needed another
example, she came into my office and asked me if she and her older
sister could take a bath in a tub (a plastic laundry tub with leaky
holes in it). In my characteristic deference to their mother’s superior
wisdom, I asked her if she’d asked mommy. She nodded affirmatively. “We
could if we be’d good.”

Many of our esteemed Washington politicians are obviously convinced
that if we middle Americans be’d good and just let them tend to our
business, they could educate our kids properly.

Currently under consideration by the Senate is a Republican-sponsored
bill designed to give states more discretion and flexibility in spending
federal education money. The program already exists in 12 states, but
the Education
Flexibility Partnership Act (called “ed-flex”) would expand its
application to all 50 states. Although the measure is states’ rights
oriented, it also has practical benefits.

Federal education money, like all federal money channeled back to the
states, has cumbersome bureaucratic strings attached. Missouri
Sen. John Ashcroft’s office puts this in perspective by reporting that
the federal government currently provides only 7 percent of local school
funding but demands 50 percent of all school paperwork in some states.

Ed-flex would free state schools from certain federal regulations
that consume valuable time of our educators — time that could be more
efficiently spent on improving the quality of education.

Though ed-flex has much bipartisan support and is even ostensibly
supported by President Clinton, the Los Angeles Times reports that the
bill “appeared destined for swift enactment until Democrats sought to
expand (it) to fit the president’s agenda.”

Specifically, they have proposed an amendment that would add $11.4
billion over six years to hire 100,000 new teachers. Senate Majority
Leader Trent Lott says that he wants to keep ed-flex streamlined for
quick passage and therefore prefers that the “new-teacher” and other
education proposals be dealt with later in the year as part of the
comprehensive Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Congress better think long and hard before making a commitment to
throw massive additional monies toward our educational problems. This is
especially true of commitments that by their nature are permanent. When
you add 100,000 teachers, you don’t just have to pay them for one year.
If they are truly needed now they will continue to be, which means
federal funding for them will have to continue in perpetuity.

Beyond that, there is much evidence that more federal money is not
the answer for education any more than it has been for a host of other
problems, such as welfare. The National Center for Policy Analysis
reports that while education spending has increased exponentially during
the past three plus decades, the scholastic performance of America’s
children has declined abysmally. In addition, University of Rochester
economist and education expert Eric Hanushek, after surveying 227
studies of student-teacher ratios, concluded that policies of class-size
reduction are extremely expensive and yield little benefits in terms of
student achievement.

There is no question that America has serious problems with
education. But pouring endless money into education programs has been
and will continue to be like pouring water into a porous laundry basket.

The ed-flex bill may be a baby step in the right direction in terms
of reducing the federal government’s stranglehold on state education.
But more radical reform is urgently needed.

We must begin to liberate our educational institutions from the
constrictive tentacles of the federal government. Hopefully, more states
will adopt private-school-choice legislation to introduce much-needed
competition into the system. And, the federal government should enact
legislation allowing education savings accounts.

In the meantime, the public education system should abandon such
“progressive” ideas as outcome-based education and return to the
fundamentally sound core-curriculum that has been tried and tested
through the years.

To find out more about David Limbaugh, and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate
web page.

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