Obama’s War on Our Children – Part II

The Education Front

In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college ―Joseph Sobran

Volumes could be written on the topic of failed federal government intervention on our education system, but the most current statistics propagated under Obama’s watch must remain the focus of all concerned citizens as we head for the ballot box on November 6. The fact that any federal handprint can be found on our educational system goes against the grain of basic conservative principles, whether it is rooted in either Republican or Democrat legislation. For that reason, total blame cannot be placed solely on Democrats for some of the negative developments over the past decade, because at the root of some of the current deficiencies is No Child Left Behind, (NCLB) foisted upon us during the Bush Administration. Nevertheless, this does not let Obama off-the-hook. Obama’s “Race to the Top” (RttT) policy was touted as a way to give more power back to states and schools and improve student learning. Yet, under his administration the federal government has further tightened the vise of central control over education and increased spending exponentially—including $100BN from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Students are not taught how to think, but what to think.

Many primary level educators lament that the policies from both NCLB and Race to the Top force them to “teach to the test,” and this comes at great cost to our children in lost time that could be spent toward a holistic approach that improves critical thinking skills and broadens their base of knowledge. Teachers spend an inordinate amount of the school year to prep students (“drill and kill”) to take a single test during the term. In an article in March 2012, Sarahlynne Davis, MEd, described curriculum requirements for a school she was teaching at that was under warning from the state due to NCLB rules. Clearly, the directive was to make sure students passed the test rather than truly gaining skills and knowledge.

  • Focus on the tested vocabulary”
  • “Teach them how to respond to the question”
  • “Teach them what to do if they don’t know the answer

Weighted priorities on “how to pass the test” are emphasized and teachers must toe the line or risk unemployment, and schools risk funding or complete closure. This is akin to many SAT coaching services; where tricks and strategies are taught, but there is no real meat on the bone for the student. While nearly no one can disagree that we need accountability in teaching and administrative staffs, no lasting up trend has resulted from enforcing these testing policies.  Additionally, researchers from sixteen universities in the Chicago area in criticism of Race to the Top wrote, “student test scores have not been found to be a strong predictor of the quality of teaching as measured by other instruments or approaches.” They went on to say, “Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth.” The charts below are avouchment, revealing a flat result trend since 1992—with or without NCLB and RttT. Red markers on the charts delineate when both programs were enacted.

How are older students faring?  SAT scores in 2012 were the worst reported in forty years. Reading scores were 486 out of a possible 800, and writing scores dropped nine points to 488. Contrast these results with those of home-schooled children who score 30 to 37 percentile points higher in all subjects compared to public school students according to independent evaluations conducted by HSLDA. Additionally, ethnicity, which is often used as a ruse by Democrats to explain poor test scores in public schools, had no negative impact on test scores for home-schooled children. Yet, in many states, and most recently Florida, the trend is to lower achievement expectations by implementing race-based student achievement goals. This is a morally hazardous development, but is on par with a declaration made by Obama’s Department of Education that puts districts on notice: if there are too many white students in Advanced Placement classes they could be subject to civil rights enforcement. In August 2012, a Berkley High School with outstanding scores in AP national exams actually considered dropping those courses because not enough minority students were attending the labs. This should be considered outrageous by any estimation, but this is the central theme of central planning—lower standards, punish success and reward failure.

Global Competitiveness Impact

Not only do these failed programs have long-lasting consequences on our students, but continue to affect the ranking of the United States in global competitiveness, and ultimately our GDP. In the most recent assessment presented by the World Economic Forum, it was noted that in ranking, using their twelve pillars of competitiveness, the U.S. has fallen considerably over the past year on Obama’s watch.

The United States spends more per capita than any other country in the world on education, with a budget of nearly $800 billion in 2012 alone. What does Obama propose? More spending, which is clearly not the solution. Federal spending per pupil has doubled since the 1970s, adjusted for inflation. Expenditures per pupil for 2012 are projected to be $11,467. Student/teacher ratio is 15:1, the lowest ratio in twelve years. What do we have to show for this spending? Dismal results and an increase to the national debt. Extensive Research by economists Eric A. Hanushek and Ludgar Woessman concluded “Simply providing more resources gives, according to the available evidence, little assurance that student performance will improve significantly.” However, effective reforms with moderately strong knowledge improvement will improve GDP considerably. Neither NCLB nor RttT have proven to be effective, yet clamoring for more spending and resources continues unabated.

School Vouchers – The Anti-dirigiste Solution

From the U.S. Counsel of Catholic Bishops,  2012 Voting Guide:

“Parents—the first and most important educators—have a fundamental right to choose the education best suited to the needs of their children, including public, private, and religious schools.”

Race to the Top has been supportive of charter schools, but the Obama Administration shows no signs of supporting an education voucher system for U.S. students. Research shows charter schools overall do not lead to achievement, but the Left continues socialistic a priori with the concept in order to continue their grip of central planning, while at the same time creating a chimera of choice. This is clearly shortchanging those students who do not have the financial means to attend a school of their choice, much less compete with private or home-schooled children. The case for vouchers was made recently by the World Innovation Summit for Education, citing measurable success in Chile, Columbia and Netherlands. Under a voucher system competition is increased to innovate and attract students, while at the same time raising efficiency and lowering costs. Opponents often cite the potential for negative outcomes due to segregation, but ignore evidence-based real world results. These objections come at a cost in both real dollars and global competitiveness to our entire society as opponents continue to cling to failed initiatives. The Left is in favor of housing vouchers and vouchers for food via SNAP, but when it comes to school vouchers they’re suddenly in opposition to the concept. Polling conducted by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice resulted in a 61% favorable rating by moms for K-12 vouchers and a mere 28% in opposition. Clearly, the central planners in Washington, D.C are ignoring the majority of those who would like to have this choice for their children.

Abolish the Department of Education and Return to Opportunity

Expenditures per pupil have increased nearly 80% since the inception of the Department of Education

Our nation needs to return to Goldwater’s call for an “opportunity society,” promoting equal opportunity—not the Left’s notion of equal outcomes. This approach was supported by President Reagan who also wanted to dismantle the unconstitutional Department of Education created by Jimmy Carter, and return control of education back to state, local and parental level. Ending the DOE would allow local education money to stay local and directed, rather than sent off to a bloated government bureau. Additionally, school vouchers would cut additional costs and return us to an “opportunity society” where students of all ages can flourish and achieve their dreams, unhindered by federal curriculum and testing standards that have proven to be a failure time and again. Consequently, these reforms would end punishing disadvantaged children attending schools that rely most heavily on federal government spending and are forced to succumb to centralized curriculum coercion.

Multiple studies cite parental involvement as a profound positive effect on the success of a student. It’s time to give all parents a free market based choice for their children and allow them to be involved right at the onset of the educational process via a voucher system. The responsibility belongs to us on November 6 to end the “race to the bottom” our nation’s education system is headed for under Obama’s central planning failures.

For further in-depth reading:

(Note- I am including a brief glance at the education system in Finland, and while I do not endorse their socialistic policies, there are several applicable reforms that could greatly benefit American students. Finland consistently ranks in the top international education rankings after making sweeping reforms in the 1970s, including a move away from centralized control and back to local control.)



Obama’s War on Our Children – Part I

Saint Nicholas of Myra
Patron Saint of Children

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Psalm 127:3-4

Rather than review Obama’s unconscionable position on abortion and infanticide, which we must completely reject as faithful Catholics and Christians, Part I will address the misnomer that is the Left’s “War on Women,” and present some of the startling economic statistics concerning our children under the oppression of Barack Obama’s economic policies.

Sidestepping the Real War

Shortly after the Obama Administration made clear to the Catholic Church they were not going to make any exceptions to the contraceptive mandate, included in The Affordable Healthcare Act, they immediately began to regularly ballyhoo a fictitious “War on Women,”—an obvious attempt to solidify the female voting base and off-set losses from the Catholic voting base. By waging this “war,” those on the Left have communicated to women that they are one-dimensional and only the sum of their reproductive body parts, unable to provide for themselves without the chronic need for government intervention in their private lives.  This campaign stunt has dishonored decades of effort and achievement by women to become independent and individually responsible for their personal decisions, but what is worse is the camouflage it has provided for the real underlying economic dénouement of Obama’s policies toward women, and most importantly our children. What is hiding behind this agitprop meme is the true war—the insidious economic war on our children.  Those on the Left continue to ignore the plight of children and young adults unless it is to overreach their hand in what our they are learning in school, allowing the mishandling of them at airports or leveraging control over the food they consume. While the benefits of good eating habits are important, you will never hear Michelle Obama mention statistical reality under the lack of leadership from her husband—one out of four children in America now rely on food stamps and would go hungry without that support. Obama’s supporters fail to acknowledge more children than ever are living in poverty, limited by educational choices, unable to find jobs during their high school years and post-college, as well as burdened with an overwhelming amount of student debt when they graduate. This is the real battle zone. Obama’s statist policies are failing our children miserably on the most basic levels, as well as threatening their ability to achieve the American Dream. Robert J. Samuelson writing on the affluence of American society said, “For millions of younger Americans—say, those 40 and under—living better than their parents is a pipe dream. They won’t.”

Children in Poverty

Recent census data states that 22% of American children now live in poverty. The rates are even higher when breaking down the statistics for ethnic groups. For black children the rate is 38% and for Hispanic children that rate is 35%. But it gets even worse. Twenty percent of children living in poverty are living in extreme poverty with incomes of $2 per day per person in the household, not including food stamps. This statistic sounds like something that would be reported from a third-world country, but it’s not. This is happening right here in America. By the end of school year 2011, The Department of Education reported one million students were homeless, an elephantine 33% jump between 2007-2011. Social worker and homeless advocate, Beth McCullough, interviewed in the Huffington Post said, “The face of homelessness is changing.” More specifically, it’s getting younger.” The typical “fix” from the socialists is more redistribution to solve this crisis, which is exactly the wrong solution, and nothing more than a piece of duct tape on a bursting dam. An economy based on low and non-progressive tax rates as well as additional non-constraining economic growth policies are the best and permanent solution in helping these children out of their dire situations. Obama prefers to cling to policies that only serve to worsen the problem and not solve it at the root cause, failing the most vulnerable in our society.

Youth Unemployment

While most of the attention on unemployment in the U.S. focuses on the general population as a whole, little attention or discussion exists with regard to the problem of youth unemployment for millions of teens and young adults, many of whom need the money to help out at home or offset the steeply rising cost of college tuition. The current rate of unemployment for ages 16-19 is 23.9%, with those between 16-24 years of age experiencing unemployment at 17.1%. The most recent data for 2012 showed an uptick of youth jobs lost of 836,000 between April and July alone. Yet Hilda Solis, Obama’s Secretary of Labor, extracted only select seasonally positive data points out of the most recent report and declared a victory in this distressing labor environment for our children. Competing for entry-level jobs with older college graduates leaves few opportunities for our youth because of a lack of real job growth solutions coming out of the Obama Administration in addressing our economic woes, including a lack of comprehensive illegal immigration reform. While Obama often pushes the notion that everyone should go to college upon graduation, a recent survey conducted by Northeastern University reports only 50% of recent graduates are able to find a job. The report goes on to say 53.6 percent of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless—the highest rate in eleven years. In an effort to influence the voting youth bloc to his side of the court, Obama led the cry to freeze current student loan interest rates, yet a recent national survey conducted by Generation Opportunity reported 64% would prefer full-time jobs over lower interest rates on student loans. This should come as no surprise to anyone, except possibly our out-of-touch negligent Chief Executive on Pennsylvania Avenue. Low interest rates on student loans mean nothing if there is no income to repay the debt to begin with.

Student Loan Debt

Make no mistake about it; student loans are now a highly risky bubble, not to mention a monkey on the banks of our young people when they’re just starting out in life. Rapidly rising tuition rates and one trillion dollars of student loan debt are another front in the war on our children. In 2005, the banking lobby enjoyed a huge win with the passing of a law that does not allow student loans in a bankruptcy both public and private. The Democrats then doubled down in 2010 by including a provision in the Affordable Care Act for the federal government, via the Department of Education, to have sole control over student loan access. In essence this has exacerbated the problem of more and more students taking out loans they can’t afford to repay, removed student loan competition from the private sector and provided full rein for colleges to increase tuition with impunity. Once again, we have the potential of a taxpayer bailout should this bubble burst, and once again losses will be socialized on the back of the taxpayer. Until a free-market solution is applied in the student loan business we can expect even more inflationary pressures on the cost of higher education and the debt will continue to climb. Forcing banks to deal with student loans in a bankruptcy would force them to curb their lending practices and schools would be forced to find ways to lower tuition rates in a free-market fashion. Removing a glut of available funds via the federal government would also serve to contain the problem. This is not rocket science and would extract the moral hazard potential. The only answer the Obama Administration has offered is to hold rates on these loans at artificially low levels to prevent the levy from bursting, but he does not seek a true free-market solution in doing so. This is nothing more than a way to protect the banks, i.e., crony capitalism, and the huge federal debt mountain he continues to expand, but fails to lower the cost of education for our children or lighten their debt load upon graduation.

In addressing British society in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence”, so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore.” (Caritas in Veritate) What is Obama’s answer? In his speech at the Democrat convention he said, “The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place, and I’m asking you to choose that future.” In contrast, John F. Kennedy said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” As faithful conservatives and responsible citizens, it’s time we reject statist policies that avoid responsibility, and rescue our children off of Obama’s “path” of hardship that threatens their future. Blessed Mother Teresa said, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.” Our children need our help on November 6. They are struggling under President Obama’s economic policies and it’s up to us to remedy that situation for them at the ballot box.

For further in-depth reading: