Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

How federal money begets inefficiency

Conservative columnist Star Parker has this to say about the "faith-based initiatives" program put in place in 2003 by President Bush:
Unfortunately, the president's program, in its current form, is truly a case of good intentions gone awry. The grant concept is deeply flawed and I predict that the organizations getting these federal grants will in short order start looking like the same government programs we were trying to get away from.
But more fundamentally, federal grants will change the way churches think about how to serve their communities. Time, energy and creativity will no longer be focused on coming up with creative solutions to problems but on how to structure programs to qualify for grants. Even now, as the welfare-reform time limits are running out on millions of single women with children, their pastors are busy attending seminars on how to apply for federal funding.
This insight is spot on (and nowhere near new or groundbreaking). What's more interesting (IMO) is that the same logic applies to public schools and the funding of local governments. Instead of teachers focusing solely on how best to teach the kids under their care, they've found themselves ever more restrained by their administrators (and the politically strong teacher's unions, who care little about the teachers they "represent"), who force them to teach certain subjects, and teach them a certain way - all in the quest to obtain more state and federal funding, which is always tied to lesson plans and test scores. Test scores the measuring of which can change just as rashly, such that the rating of the school won't drop and they won't lose any funding - but over time those measures lose all value in the assessing of students' progress. Welcome to nationalized education. And we wonder why charter schools (distinguished from private schools), which operate outside the control and restrictions of state and national Boards of Education, are doing so much better than regular public schools.

The same is true of local government - eminent domain abuse is on the rise, with city councils and mayors casting about their towns looking for prime real estate to "condemn" in order to turn it over to private developers to build malls or big-box retail stores. Why, you ask? Because they've learned how to game the system - sales taxes fill local governments' coffers much faster than property taxes. They are no longer attempting to govern with a sense of propriety and service to the community, but only to aggrandize their own power. The Supreme Court decision on New London, CT can't come soon enough.


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