Feds' Magical Money Tree Blowing Dollars Away from Education Reform

Last week I asked whether the federal “stimulus” bill and its magical money tree would do any good for education reform. It didn’t take long to have that naive question soundly rejected.

The Flypaper blog’s Obama Administration Reform-o-Meter has taken a plunge with the news that the $125 billion in education funding attached to the so-called emergency spending measure is becoming less reform-friendly. Take the Senate committee’s approved version:

The Teacher Incentive Fund (which supports merit pay programs): gone. Charter school facilities dollars: gone. Money for data infrastructure projects: gone. Language ensuring that charter schools have equitable access to the money: gone. The teachers unions firmly in control of the Democratic Party: back with a vengeance.

This can’t feel good if you belong to Democrats for Education Reform. Except they’ve got to be cheering for the House version of the bill, about which Flypaper’s Mike Petrilli writes:

On the other hand, the House bill isn’t a complete disaster for reform, because it at least includes some goodies in its Santa Claus sack: money for charter school facilities; dollars for teacher merit pay; a promise that charter schools will have equal access to the federal largesse; investments in state data systems that could (one day) be used to tie student achievement to individual teachers.

Since the likely result is a compromise between the House and Senate versions, I can say the Feds would do a lot better to keep the magical money tree to themselves, and let states figure out how to promote effective, parent-friendly education reform on their own. But even that approach isn’t too promising.

Help! I’m beginning to wonder if I might turn into a cynic before my 6th birthday.