How States Can “Race to the Top” on Education Performance

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent editorial on education funding and performance, as well as the unions’ take on the “race to the top” initiative:

All of this is on top of the education spending boom during the Bush years to pay for the 2001 No Child Left Behind law. Democrats liked to claim that law was “underfunded,� but the reality is that inflation-adjusted Education Department elementary and secondary spending under President Bush grew to $37.9 billion from $28.3 billion, or 34%. NCLB-specific funding rose by more than 40% between 2001 and 2008.

It’s also worth noting that the U.S. has been trying without much success to spend its way to education excellence for decades. Between 1970 and 2004, per-pupil outlays more than doubled in real terms, and the federal portion of that spending nearly tripled. Yet reading scores on national standardized tests have remained relatively flat. Black and Hispanic students are doing better, but they continue to lag far behind white students in both test scores and graduation rates.  …

Charter schools and voucher programs regularly produce better educational outcomes with less money. But as long as most education spending goes to support the status quo, Race to the Top will be mostly a case of political show and tell.

This is the same issue we are facing at the state level, where Gov. Rendell, Pennsylvania House Democrats, and the PSEA insist that the $28.2 billion available to school districts (including $2.4 billion they have been given but haven’t spent) isn’t enough, but $600 million more will solve all their problems. All the while, Rendell and his allies continue to back the status quo in education to carry the teachers’ union agenda, while opposing greater school choice or removing costly mandate like prevailing wage laws, as we discuss in a recent commentary “Who’s For the Children?