Who's Surprised Stimulus "Magical Money Tree" Isn't Funding Reform?

Hey, I may be little, but I’m smart. People should pay attention to me. Back in January, I told you that the stimulus bill — before it even passed — would blow dollars away from education reform. What? You doubt that it’s true?

This week the American Enterprise Institute’s Andy Smarick put out its second “Education Stimulus Watch” brief (PDF) observes there is “little evidence that that states and districts are making reduction decisions with either reform or long-term considerations in mind.” One large obstacle to using the difficult times to effect creative change — besides plain-old bureaucratic inertia — is restrictive union contracts, notes Smarick.

Surprise, surprise.

In addition to the $75 billion in federal funds sucked by states and local districts into status quo preservation, there’s the great hope of $5 billion in competitive Race To The Top grant funds. Are those more likely to generate reform? Smarick says reformers may need “to ratchet back their expectations” because of the ineffectiveness of the federal level:. The key will be implementation at the local level, and where is the incentive for officials to implement reforms well?

“It appears all but certain that the ARRA’s $75 billion in formula-based education programs are a lost cause for education reform,” Smarick concludes — or as I like to put it, blown out of the magical money tree and away from reform.

There is, however, still a strong flicker of hope for Race To The Top, but even at my young age I know not to put too much faith into the federal government on issues like these.