Federal Subsidies

The Department of Education, in its First Year Progress press release concerning the Federal Race to the Top subsidy program, asserts

The 12 state-specific reports provide summaries of accomplishments made and setbacks experienced by states in pursuing reforms around Race to the Top’s four assurance areas—raising academic standards, building robust data systems to improve instruction, supporting great teachers and school leaders….

That’s a lot of bureaucracy, without a lot of actual performance.  To be sure, the rest of the claim from the DoE excerpt above includes “…and turning around persistently low-performing schools.”  Let’s look at DoE’s own individual reports to see how accurate that claim is, along with their introductory claim that

[t]hese twelve states have acted with courage and commitment in taking on ambitious education reform. Their year one work has helped lay the foundation for long-term, statewide improvements centered on doing what’s best for students.

DoE’s assessments of the first year belie those rosy words.  The Wall Street Journal reports that three of those 12 states have been explicitly called out for failure to perform in accordance with the promises they made in order to get this Federal subsidy.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned New York state…to deliver its promise to overhaul teacher evaluations and develop a comprehensive student data-tracking system or risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants.


…Hawaii…is now required to get federal approval before spending any of the $75 million it won.


Florida has also been criticized.

Florida was criticized for being seriously behind its promised time and budget schedule for getting on with its promised actions.  In fact, Florida has simply issued a string of excuses so weak that even Duncan couldn’t look past them.

I don’t expect perfection out of a government program, or any other human endeavor.  But I do expect far better performance from a government program, funded as it necessarily is, with our money—in this case, with $700 million of our money.  However, as Joy Pullman notes in The Weekly Standard, “the federal government isn’t good at a great many things—particularly education.”

Or at getting efficient results through subsidies generally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *