NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 7, 2004

A new study to be released today by the Cato Institute notes that while federal spending on education has ballooned from about $25 billion in 1965 (adjusted for inflation) to more than $108 billion in 2002, the promise of improved classroom performance and grades remains flat. Math and reading scores have stagnated, graduation rates have flatlined, and researchers have shown several billion-dollar federal programs to be failures.

According to Cato:

  • More than 36 federal departments and organizations run major education programs, according to the Education Department Statistics.
  • State and local authority over education has been gradually usurped by the federal government, which has no constitutional authority to run or dictate to local schools.
  • As Washington has gradually claimed more power over education, states have less power and have been forced to succumb to increasing federal regulation in exchange for federal dollars taken from its citizens in the first place.

The top six departments engaged in education spending and the amounts they spent in current dollars in 1965 and 2002 are as follows: Health and Human Services ($1 billion in '65; $22.9 billion in '02); Education ($1 billion in '65; $46 billion in '02; Agriculture ($768 million in '65, $11 billion in '02); Defense ($587 million in '65; $4.7 billion in '02); Energy ($442.4 million in '65; $3 billion in '02); and Labor ($230 million in '65; $6.4 billion in '02).

The Cato study concludes that the federal government should drop out of education and return the money and power for instructing children to the state and individual communities.

Source: Cal Thomas, "Education money pit," Washington Times, July 7, 2004; based upon Neal McCluskey, "A Lesson in Waste: Where Does All the Federal Education Money Go?" Cato Policy Analysis No. 518 July 7, 2004, Cato Institute.

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