President Obama announced today that the federal government will be allocating $250 million to improve training for science and math teachers throughout the country. While believing that the President is well-intended and agreeing with him that the international rankings of American students in math and science need to be improved, 21st Century Jeffersonians should view this effort as a misguided assertion of federal power and yet another erosion of the principles of federalism.
The Constitution does not delegate any powers to the federal government in the field of education, which is an issue that should be left entirely to the states. In the last half century, especially since the establishment of the Department of Education in 1980, the federal governmnt in Washington has encroached continually on the independence of state governments in matters of education. Different states have different requirements, and the idea that a congressman in Vermont understands the needs of a student in Oregon better that the local schoolboard is simply ridiculous.
Furthermore, while $250 million may be a very small sliver of the overall federal budget, every single one of those dollars makes the disastrous fiscal situation of the federal government that much worse. It can easily be argued that the money would have been spent in reducing the deficit.
Wherever federal money goes, federal control will inevitably follow, even with the best of intentions. State and local governments should be working hard to improve the quality of math and science education (and, indeed, education in general) because that is part of their duties to their citizens. But as failed efforts like the No Child Left Behind Act have amply demonstrated, interventions by the federal government into the education system usually produce little or no good and a great deal of trouble.
Thanks, Mr. President. But no thanks.