- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now that the lines of the red state-blue state models are as blurred as those in the Robin Thicke-Pharrell Williams 2013 groove “Blurred Lines,” it’s time to begin formulating a chit-chat about federal education policy.

There’s a long line of conservatives and Republicans who still want to snip the thick education cords tethered to public schooling, while the teachers unions and the Democratic Party are tied to the more, more, more status quo.

So the next couple of years are not the time to begin asking if the U.S. Department of Education should stay or go. The Cabinet-level agency isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Yet now is the time to ask who’s driving the education bus, who’s riding shotgun, where is the bus heading and when will it arrive.

The latest test scores of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) beg, for sure, that at least those four questions be asked before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and before House Speaker Paul Ryan, who leaves office in January, is replaced.

It’s not easy to ink in who will replace Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and a solid proponent of school choice. His colleague, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, appears to be a front-runner.

And because Mr. McCarthy is a school choice advocate as well, that’s an A-plus and a key reason why he and Mr. Ryan should broach the idea of a three-way discussion with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Mrs. DeVos was slammed by special interest groups for not getting all the education funding she had proposed in her budget. Fine. The $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Trump signed into law is what it is.

However, the unrelenting pressure to boost spending for fiscal 2018-2019 is not going to subside merely because the players change. Mrs. DeVos could do as Mr. Ryan and decide to leave Washington, but the progressive hard-liners will remain — and they love nothing more than to claim that America’s schools need more money to “fix” all of their problems.

America’s school system is broken, and that bunch prefers schoolhouse paste to Gorilla Glue. Go figure.

Anyway, one of Mrs. DeVos’ first assignments before such a meeting would be to look at school spending. She wouldn’t have to consider every state or every school district.

As a matter of fact, she could simply look at the D.C. school system and a few others to learn whether the federal money designated for underprivileged students and schools is being used or stirred around in school district coffers for well whatever.

For example, The Washington Post reported this past weekend that Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration “misspent million of dollars designated to help the city’s most vulnerable students, directing the money instead to cover day-to-day costs, according to government data, D.C. Council members and education activists.”

“The money is intended to provide extra academic attention and social services to boost the academic performance of children who lag behind their wealthier peers,” the story further stated. “But D.C. Public Schools uses a big chunk of the money to plug holes in the budget, covering routine costs such as paying the salaries of art teachers and aides.”

If no federal dollars were used to blur D.C. school-spending lines, it could be a whopping jolt — just as surprising as two other recent scandals, the fake graduation rates and the poor school-residency oversight.

The Trump administration and the Republican majorities in Congress must get their act together ASAP and explain to parents, supporters and other stakeholders that their money is in good hands.

The Democrats and liberals, meanwhile, are preparing for a midterm war, which means more teacher and student walkouts, and more demands for more money.

Their anti-choice bus will be on the road soon, and those hitched to the status quo are preparing new crying towels, too.

Be prepared to drive in the right direction.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]


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