NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

In The Name Of Education

March 4, 1996

Recently, the Congressional Research Service was asked to identify every federal program that claims to have an educational mission. The list it compiled is an eye-opener.

  • Researchers found 598 accounts that gobbled up $120 billion, along with 162 items that received no money -- either because Congress had either just killed them, or just created them.
  • Department of Education activities consumed $53 billion, with the remaining $67 billion going to 38 other departments and agencies.

Congressional experts identified some rather far-out activities being labeled "educational."

  • The Department of Commerce spends $7 million on a program called "Clean Vessels," which warns boaters about sewage and tells them how and where to dump it.
  • One Education Department program spends more than $19 million to close-caption TV programs such as soap operas and day-time chat shows, including "Ricki Lake," "Regis and Kathie Lee," "All My Children" and "Baywatch."
  • While the federal government operates 39 separate programs to promote the arts and 27 for environmental education, science gets just 28 programs; reading, 14; and math, nine.

Meanwhile, schools devoted less than 1 percent of their budgets last year to purchasing text books. One-quarter of elementary and secondary school teachers report they are using textbooks at least a decade old. And 40 percent say they don't have enough books for all their pupils.

Source: Tony Snow, "'Baywatch' Educational?" USA Today, March 4, 1996.


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