NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reforms Would Cut Education Administrative Costs

May 8, 2000

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965 to improve education and narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor students. However, 35 years later, the results have not been impressive despite the costs.

  • One third of disadvantaged students have not received money set aside for them by the program.
  • Seventy-seven percent of students in very poor urban schools are reading below the basic level.
  • Half of the students from urban school districts don't graduate on time.

Part of the problem is that so much of the federal money goes for administration costs, not instruction. Less than half those employed by U.S. public schools in 1994 were teachers, in part because of the high cost of implementing government regulations. In Florida, for example, it takes six times as many people to administer a federal education dollar as it does for a state education dollar.

The Senate is now debating a Republican measure that would cut bureaucratic expenditures by reforming ESEA. The four measures would do the following:

  • Title I Portability reform would allow the money set aside for low-income students to be used for supplemental services, such as tutoring.
  • Straight A's reform would allow up to 15 states to consolidate federal funding from 12 different ESEA programs and give it to the programs the state believes need it most.
  • The public schools choice initiative would allow children in schools which have been designated as failing for two years to transfer to another public school of their choice, using their failing school's Title 1 money to do so.
  • The Teacher Empowerment Act also consolidation of funds from two ESEA to provide $2 billion for give years for teacher training and support -- but requires 95 percent of funds be given directly to school districts and restricting administrative costs to the remaining five percent.

Democrats have threatened to kill the reforms by adding amendments on China, campaign finance reform and gun control.

Source: Editorial, "Education Reform is Elementary," Washington Times, May 8, 2000.


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