"Issues and Action in Education"

Education in the Lame Duck Congress

By Karen R. Effrem, MD

EdWatch Director of Government Relations

EdWatch Index

November 21, 2010


The US Congress is back in session to deal with the federal budget and decide the fate of the Bush tax cuts, both of which the Democrats in control were too afraid to tackle before the election....

The Labor/HHS/Education budget bill is the largest bill in the federal budget because it contains the most discretionary spending and all of the entitlement bills.  To get an idea of where the President, House, and Senate stand on the various budget items in education, you can look at the summaries from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. In almost every case, except for Race to the Top, the House proposes to spend less or the same as the president and the Senate seeks to spend more. Most items in this entire budget bill show increased spending over last year or at worst the same as last year.  It is the rare instance when the congressional appropriators try to spend less or try to eliminate a program.  Here are a few highlights of education items of particular interest to those that care about education freedom:

Race to the Top - This is the $4 billion federal competitive grant program slipped into the federal stimulus bill about which EdWatch has been warning since July of 2009.  It seeks to establish a federal curriculum by moving to establish and require internationally benchmarked national standards and assessments, increase the already intrusive collection of private family and student education data, and promote the expansion of ineffective, intrusive and expensive early childhood programs.  The president asked for $1.35 billion for the next year, while the House committee appropriated $800 million, and the Senate wants to spend $675 million.  Fortunately, incoming House Education Committee chairman John Kline understands all of the problems with this program and does not want to fund it at all. So if it is funded, hopefully it can be rescinded in the next Congress.

21st Century Community Learning Centers - This is the program that seeks to have schools be involved in every aspect of student and family life from breakfast, childcare, preschool, parent education, workforce development, all through and after the school day.  This program is the fulfillment of Montgomery County Maryland school official Edwin Broome's prediction way back in 1946 when he said, "The end results are that the school makes itself indispensable to all phases of community life.  In the future development of school programs, the service program will receive increasing emphasis until the school becomes in fact the agency to which all people in the community turn for assistance." (Emphasis added.) The president asks for $1.17 billion while the House asks for $1.20 billion and the Senate seeks $1.27 billion. Hopefully the Republicans can get rid of this one as well. 

Head Start - This federal early childhood education program that also does invasive home visits and mental health screening along with medical and dental care was shown in yet another of over 600 taxpayer funded studies to be ineffective past the first grade and harmful to the math skills of three year old children as well as being fraudulent.  This program should be abolished.  Yet, the president and Senate seek to increase funding by nearly one billion dollars to $8.22 billion, while the House is asking for $8.10 billion.

Early Childhood Challenge Grants - This was $9 billion of new spending in an attempt by the Obama administration to expand federal involvement in early childhood education during the federal takeovers of health care and student loans.  Fortunately, even the administration realized this spending was over the top.  The House is not requesting any funding for this program. Yet, despite all of the evidence showing either ineffectiveness and academic and emotional harm of early childhood programs, the Senate is actually wanting to spend $300 million the nation does not have to still try to implement yet another federal education program

It is important to pay attention to what happens during this lame duck session, because they are infamous for allowing huge spending increases and controversial programs and provisions in addition to the fact the federal spending, the deficit and the national debt are all out of control.  If the Democrats still in charge of Congress remain as tone deaf as they were during the rest of this congress, it will also be important to hold the Republicans accountable in the next Congress to undo as much of this spending as possible.

Note:  Dr. Karen Effrem was interviewed about federal education issues by Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.  That interview may be accessed here.


For more detailed information from EdWatch on Race to the Top, please visit the following resources:


Legislative Testimony:  Dr. Karen Effrem's testimony before the February 9, 2010 Minnesota House Education Policy Committee begins at 44:00.


Minnesota House Session Weekly - Dr Effrem and the teacher's union representative share similar concerns in "Sprint for the Money"


Interview of Dr. Effrem by Sue Jeffers of KTLK-FM (2/13/10) begins at 25:00.


Interview of Dr. Effrem by Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania (1/27/10)

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