Do You Really Think All That "Stimulus" Money Will Go to Help Kids Like Me?

I’m only 5 (almost 6) years old, but I’m no dummy. The reason we all ought to be skeptical of the “it’s for the children” line is the political realities of how the money is spent.

In his Pajamas Media column, Greg Forster unravels the uncritical support of our new President’s grand plans to throw billions of dollars at schools as part of a so-called “stimulus” package:

I suspect that pretty much nobody in Congress really believes the Keynesian theory. There are two real motivations behind all stimulus bills. First, it creates an opportunity for politicians to claim credit for any good economic news that subsequently comes along. Second, it’s an excuse to shovel money at powerful constituencies, from whom you can later demand reciprocal support.

It’s the latter reason that will determine how the new school spending in the stimulus bill will be spent. The money won’t go where it’s needed. It will go to the gravy train.

And then Forster makes this point:

But there’s an even stronger reason to expect stimulus spending on schools to produce no improvement. With schools, we’ve measured the effects of spending increases over and over again — and we’ve consistently found that they make no difference.

There have been literally hundreds of empirical studies examining whether educational outcomes are related to spending increases. This body of evidence has consistently found that spending more money bears no relationship with the results we get from schools. In fact, the total amount we spend per student has more than doubled in the past 40 years, after accounting for inflation, while educational outcomes are flat over the same period.

This point has been highlighted repeatedly by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow in reports like this one (PDF).

I’m going to keep writing about the serious problems in Barack Obama’s proposed “stimulus” package for schools, because all the good people who might support the idea because they really think it’s “for the children” would probably like to know that’s not really what’s going to happen.