Convenient federalism

Liberals shouldn’t pretend they dislike federal intervention just because they oppose No Child Left Behind, writes Matthew Yglesias.

When you hear Kansas is taking evolution out of the curriculum, you don’t approve. You don’t say, “well, we can teach evolution in Maryland and let them teach whatever they want in Kansas.” Nor do you think it’s okay if Georgia wants to teach “The War of Northern Aggression.” Nor do you think the horrendous inequalities in school funding inside Connecticut is bad, but the inequalities in funding between New Jersey schools and New Mexico schools is a-okay . . .

Let me also just note more broadly that the idea of moral federal spending but less federal “intervention” is a mirage. Where there’s money, there will be strings, and rightly so.

Yglesias also observes that poor kids, who tend to move around more, are disadvantaged by local control.

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  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Of course, if all you teach is reading and arithmatic, local control should notmake a difference.

  2. Ah, but then =how= to teach the reading or arithmetic? Whole language or phonics or some sorry mish-mash of faddish ideas? Drilling kids on multiplication, or letting them “discover” how multiplication works? Is the school board going to waste its cash on buying new reading and math materials every couple years?

    Of course, there’s no reason a federal bureaucracy would make better decisions on these matters. But the feds are not even mandating what accountability tests schools should use, so I’m not sure I see what the bitching is about.

    And I’m not sure how often poor kids move around. It seems to me they get stuck in the same public housing for years on end. But then, I live in NYC.

  3. meep wrote:

    Of course, there’s no reason a federal bureaucracy would make better decisions on these matters.

    No but there is a reason why the feds should make those decisions: it’s where the money comes from.

    Expecting anyone to write a check and then refrain from demanding any accountability would be just wishful thinking if it wasn’t how public education has been run forever.

    Well, the party’s over. One check-writer is demanding that a line of their own devising be toed. That’s what all the bitching is about. Explicit accountability is a novelty in public education and it’s a novelty plenty of people won’t find fascinating.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Teach it any way that works [my 1930’s was modified look see] but give methodology a Russian circumcision – cut off anything that hangs over.

  5. Chris C. says:

    Teach it any way that works…

    It’s not that simple, in my opinion. Local control of schools means that two neighboring districts could be using two very different textbooks (and both might ‘work’).

    If a child moves to a school where they are learning addition of fractions with unlike denominators in fourth grade, this child is at a disadvantage if his or her old school decided not to even introduce fractions until fourth grade.