When stimulus isn't enough

A little more than a year ago, Congress passed and the President signed the “Stimulus” bill.  At the time, we were told that one of its chief features was to save the jobs of public school teachers.  There was, despite my general feelings of disapproval towards the Stimulus, some sense to doing this.  As I’ve often argued, there’s no “playing catch up” with missed education.  Once a child falls behind, he or she is pretty much screwed, both from a biological perspective (the brain becomes less adaptable as it ages) and on a social basis (our school system and our merit-tracking systems tend towards the chronologically-based).  So if there aren’t any teachers — the scenario that proponents of the stimulus package averred would come to pass in its absence — it’s actually really bad for students.

Now we can argue back and forth about whether the feds actually should (or do) have this sort of authority, whether public school teachers really needed shoring up, and whether states and districts ultimately just needed to learn to tighten their belts and are being led down the garden path by the DoE and Congress.  We can go back and forth all day on those issues.  But it’s clear that the argument for keeping public school teachers in play is (at least as I’ve made it here) a plausible one.

Sometimes, though, when a person get’s a good argument in their head, the argument keeps getting made.  Over, and over, and over.  It’s like in Les Miserables, where Thenardier gets a plausible argument that he’s a hero.  (It’s false, but it’s plausible.)  The guy’s entire life becomes about leveraging that story over and over again for everything it’s worth.

I wonder…. how many more times are we going to see the feds saving state jobs in education?

The Obama administration on Thursday threw its support behind a $23 billion measure intended to avert large-scale teacher layoffs, urging Congress to include the effort in a spending bill lawmakers are drafting to fund wartime costs and other urgent needs.

“We are gravely concerned that ongoing state and local budget challenges are threatening hundreds of thousands of teacher jobs for the upcoming school year,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Duncan added: “These budget cuts would also undermine the groundbreaking reform efforts under way in states and districts all across the country.”

It’s for the children.  At least that’s what we can keep telling ourselves.