This week, on his mesmerizing FOX News show, Glenn Beck discussed the idea of doing away with the Department of Education. (Honestly, if no one actually took him seriously, Beck would be a satirist on the level of the writers behind South Park and The Simpsons.) Beck discussed the topic with The Cato Institute's Chris Edwards, author of Downsizing for the Federal Government, and Stephen Dubner, the former New York Times reporter and co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics.
Beck argues that the Education Department, which is relatively new (founded in 1979), wastes $94 billion per year. Edwards hops on the bandwagon, explaining that the Department was initially created to fund poorer schools under Title I. However, he says, schools in his tony D.C. suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, are getting Title I funds. (The Education Trust, an advocacy organization that focuses on achievement gaps experienced by minority and low-income students pointed out recently that Title I funds are being misspent all around the country.)
While Dubner didn't get into abolishing the Department of Education, he did dispute Beck's characterization that schools in this country are "educational palaces." (I seriously doubt the thousands of teachers whose classrooms are in trailers that abut a school would agree with Beck's point.) He does, however, refer with some reverence to the schools run by KIPP and School of One.
Dubner then turned his comments on teachers:
Now, I think here's the thing: If you ask a lot of educators, a lot of the honest educators, what matters most in a school — OK, you got classroom size, dollars per student. What matter most? They all say — all the ones I've talked to and who do research, say one thing: teachers' skill. All that really matters, the teachers' skill.\n
Nixing the Department of Education is a Beck pipe dream, but eyes from both sides of the aisle began glaring at teachers and the unions that support them. There's not much else that Glenn Beck and a New York Times reporter (even a former one) are going to agree on.