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Posted at 12:46 PM ET, 07/20/2010

Cutting food stamps for Race to the Top?

By Valerie Strauss

Here’s how serious the Obama administration is about its $4.3 billion Race to the Top competitive grant competition for school reform: It was, apparently, willing to cut food stamps to keep Race funding intact.

That was one of the gems that emerged in an interview with Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) published on the Fiscal Times Web site and written by Eric Pianin and Adam Graham-Silverman.

There is something peculiar -- not to mention inappropriately stubborn -- about the administration’s fierce determination to keep every Race dime that it wants. After all, the $4.35 billion originally devoted to the grant competition was not based on anything scientific, and many of the reforms meant to be taken with the money have not been proven to improve student achievement.

As many times as Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that education is the civil rights issue of our time, the fact is that Race to the Top doesn’t guarantee that every child will benefit from all this federal largesse.

In the Fiscal Times interview, Obey, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who is retiring after more than 40 years in Congress, had sharp words for the Obama administration on education.

Obey has been fighting with the administration over Race to the Top funding; he had proposed taking $800 million from education initiatives -- $500 million from Race -- to help pay for a $10 billion plan to avert layoffs among teachers and others. The administration refused, and, according to Obey, made suggestions about other places to cut.

The first recommendation coming from the administration, which was never acted on, was cutting money for food stamps. The story was that this was acceptable because the price of food is lower than it was projected to be when the money was appropriated for the stamps.

Obey found that thinking offensive: “Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.”

The fate of the jobs initiative in the Senate -- which the administration supported except for the part about the $800 million -- is unclear; it was passed in the House.

The logic in this escapes me: Yes, there is plenty of money for an unproven reform program, but no, there is not money to keep people in jobs, especially people who have to actually implement the reforms.

But I suppose we can take comfort in this: A House subcommittee has approved $800 million more to extend the competition into fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1.

Oh joy.

Here are some excerpts about education from the Obey interview, and you can read it all here:

On education and the Obama administration:

“The secretary of education is whining about the fact he only got 85 percent of the money he wanted. ... So, when we needed money, we committed the cardinal sin of treating him like any other mere mortal. We were giving them over $10 billion in money to help keep teachers on the job, plus another $5 billion for Pell, so he was getting $15 billion for the programs he says he cares about, and it was costing him $500 million [in reductions to the Race to the Top program]. Now that’s a pretty damn good deal. ...

“We gave [Duncan] $4.3 billion in the stimulus package, no questions asked. He could spend it any way he wants. .... I trusted the secretary, so I gave him a hell of a lot more money than I should have.

“My point is that I have been working for school reform long before I ever heard of the secretary of education, and long before I ever heard of Obama. And I’m happy to welcome them on the reform road, but I’ll be damned if I think the only road to reform lies in the head of the Secretary of Education.

“We were told we have to offset every damn dime of [new teacher spending]. Well, it ain’t easy to find offsets, and with all due respect to the administration, their first suggestion for offsets was to cut food stamps. Now they were careful not to make an official budget request, because they didn’t want to take the political heat for it, but that was the first trial balloon they sent down here. ... Their line of argument was, well, the cost of food relative to what we thought it would be has come down, so people on food stamps are getting a pretty good deal in comparison to what we thought they were going to get. Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.”

On teachers unions:

“I have had a half-life war with the NEA. For three years in a row I refused to even take any contributions because they had this silly deal that every year if you want to get their endorsement, you first had to fill out their silly questionnaire and pledge like a Boy Scout that you would do A, B, C, D and E. And I said I’m not going to do that. I have been the lead pony on education funding for 15 years around here, and if NEA isn’t smart enough to figure out where the hell I’m coming from on education after that time, they don’t deserve to be in the business.

“I have been the leading proponent of funding for education for the past 15 years in this Congress at least. ... I don’t need any lectures from the secretary of education or the president of the United States in terms of my willingness to take on teachers’ organizations.”

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By Valerie Strauss  | July 20, 2010; 12:46 PM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan, Race to the Top  | Tags:  arne duncan, cutting food stamps, david obey, duncan and obey, edu jobs, edu jobs bill, education and civil rights, education secretary arne duncan, edujobs bill, extending race to the top, fiscal times, race to the top, race to the top funding, y  
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Comments

Reading these mindless columns is like watching a car crash-I just can't help myself. Where to begin?

1. Education funding is an INVESTMENT in our future. If we can improve education
and prevent more kids from dropping out-then we won't need to spend billions on food stamps. Currently there are 40 million people on food stamps.

2. I would love to see your analysis of how any "stimulus" money would actually save jobs. Due to underfunded bloated pension plans, any monies sent to states for schools would simply go toward their pension liabilities. This is where reform should occur.

3. Where is the wasteful spending in education besides pensions? In the multiple layers of administation that has evolved due to general incompetence. Instructional coaches, assessment coaches, PLC coordinators, etc. If everybody just did their job we wouldn't need to hire all these people who never even interact with a child.

4. What is your plan? You bash Obama, Duncan, NCLB, Pearson, Rhee,Bill Gates the list goes on. Let's hear your solution to the dreadful state of education.

We let the unions run our schools for decades and look where we are.

Posted by: takebackourschools | July 20, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Had the Obama Administration been allowed to cut food stamps in order to preserve its educational “reforms,” then Grover Whitehurst of the Brookings institution could have then conducted a cost benefit analysis. When x number of poor people eat y amount of additional food, would 8th grade math test scores rise more or less than if innovation “z” from the RttT was scaled up faster? After all, a data-driven decision assessing a budding mathematician in a poor school might result in his discovering a way to replicate cold fusion.

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 20, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

This is a great article. Thanks for always telling the truth about education!

Posted by: jlp19 | July 20, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I still don't get how they can defend so much money for the war type stuff and not for education. Somebody doesn't care about our future.

What Race to the Top does right is want to give some money to states that are trying to improve urban schools. What is wrong with it is that the whole thing is just about test scores and charter schools.

It is true that urban schools have long been ignored. But why allow the other schools to go down the drain. And why do Delaware and Tennessee get all the money?

Obey is right. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and others have had good schools for decades, why should they have to race to the top? they are already there.

I wish they could get the money from the bankers and Wall Street people that ripped us all off. We are the ones paying taxes.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

When you hear that they wanted to cut food stamps because food prices have not gone up, you have to wonder when was the last time that particular person went to the grocery store?

What planet are these people on?

Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Reading these mindless columns is like watching a car crash-I just can't help myself. Where to begin?
...

We let the unions run our schools for decades and look where we are.

Posted by: takebackourschools | July 20, 2010 1:33 PM

*********
Reading these mindless columns...
Then why bother?

We let unions blah, blah, blah...
Montgomery County and Fairfax County teachers are unionized.

Posted by: edlharris | July 20, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"The first recommendation coming from the administration, which was never acted on, was cutting money for food stamps."

Only Arne Duncan would of thought of something like that.

Posted by: aby1 | July 20, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

It would have been hard to think of a worse public educational policy of No Child Left Behind.

Then the current administration came up with the idea of Race To The Top.

Is it really that impossible for this country to have reasonable policies on public education?

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

@takebackourschools

I agree with you on your point #3.

I don't agree with you that unions are the problem or that Valerie just attacks everyone. She doesn't. She has only been shedding a light and being reasonable about current so called reform policies.

You're definitely correct about #3, though.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 20, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

We let the unions run our schools for decades and look where we are.

Posted by: takebackourschools
.................................
You need a little perspective.

I went to schools before unions and there were problems in the poverty schools that are now called Title 1 poverty public schools.

About the only differences in these neighborhoods was that public officials were actually trying to do something about these problems and at least save the ones that could benefit from a decent education. Every American at that time would have laughed at any politician with the idea that there is proficient child in every pot such as No Child Left Behind.

At that time Americans were actually ready to deal with reality.

Now we have Americans, who do not live in the neighborhoods of Title 1 poverty public schools or even know anything about the problems of these schools, yelling every teacher should stop being lazy and do their job and get rid of the union.

The politicians with No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top are just conning Americans. Tell Americans anything since you only need to fool them for at the most fours years before the reelection to the Presidency. It worked for Bush and it will work to Obama.

I am always amazed at Americans who bash teachers and unions. What education do these Americans have if they accepted whole hog George W. Bush and that all children are equal and that there is no more difficulty for a teacher to teach a child from a slum as there is in teaching a child from a middle class or affluent area.

The poverty schools have not changed much since I went to school but the gullibility of Americans certainly has changed a great deal.

Maybe it is the fluoridation of the water.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Dog Training according to George Z. Bush

Formal training should be done when the dog is 1 year old.

It does not matter what the owner does to the dog during the first year.

I have seen dogs totally neglected and beaten by their owner during the first year, and dogs of the same breed well cared for by their owner during the first year.

All dogs can be trained to proficiency in the same amount of time and using the same approved method irregardless of how the dog was treated in the first year prior to the start of training.

My training philosophy is No Dog Left Behind.

Dogs that are not trained to proficiency in the given time and using the same approved method are a sign of lazy and incompetent dog trainers and the union of dog trainers.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it is the fluoridation of the water.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 7:47 PM

Sapping our precious bodily fluids
-Gen Jack T Ripper in "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learn to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb"

Posted by: edlharris | July 20, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Dog Training according to George Z. Bush
Former President, Dog Trainers of America

Formal training should be done when the dog is 1 year old.

It does not matter what the owner does to the dog during the first year.

I have seen dogs totally neglected and beaten by their owner during the first year, and dogs of the same breed well cared for by their owner during the first year.

All dogs can be trained to proficiency in the same amount of time and using the same approved method irregardless of how the dog was treated in the first year prior to the start of training.

My training philosophy is No Dog Left Behind.

Dogs that are not trained to proficiency in the given time and using the same approved method are a sign of lazy and incompetent dog trainers and the union of dog trainers.

..................................
Dog Training according to Benny Obama
President, Dog Trainers of America

Dogs that are not trained to proficiency in the given time and using the same approved method are a sign of lazy and incompetent dog trainers and the union of dog trainers.

I am offering dog training organization in the various states a competition called Race To The Dog Biscuit.

Winning state organization will be awarded funds for policies to get rid of the union of Dog trainers, and to develop testing programs and computer system to evaluate the performance of dog trainers.

Remember No Dog Left Behind.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it is the fluoridation of the water.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 7:47 PM

Sapping our precious bodily fluids
-Gen Jack T Ripper in "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learn to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb"

Posted by: edlharris
........................
I love that movie too.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 20, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Take Back our Schools is an event scheduled by the Tea Party in Austin, Texas.

Posted by: roosboys | July 20, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

I like your no dog left behind program. I am sure it will up the training of all dogs. And it will help us point out the dog trainers that should be fired. Everything is their fault anyway.

Posted by: aby1 | July 21, 2010 1:32 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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