Stop Funding Bureaucracy, Congress Told

Published October 1, 1997

Members of Congress were recently reminded that U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $100 billion on Title I, special education, and bilingual programs that do not help and even harm some children. Instead of continuing to support “a nightmare of educational bureaucracy and hosts of special pleaders,” Congress was told, it ought to “give money–not to bureaucrats and special interests, but to families in the form of grants or vouchers.”

Dr. Herbert J. Walberg, Research Professor of Education and Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, made his comments on July 31 in testimony on “Literacy: A Review of Current Federal Programs” before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Labor Force.

Although Congress could best address the U.S.’s growing crisis of literacy by ending the educationally harmful categorical programs altogether, Walberg admitted this was unlikely, given the support for such programs by teacher unions and other education lobbying groups. Nevertheless, he noted, Congress could lead the nation in solving the school productivity problem by radically decentralizing decision-making to individual citizens.

With direct grants and vouchers, families could purchase education services from a variety of public schools and private providers in the marketplace. “Free markets provide the greatest amount of innovation, efficiency, and consumer satisfaction the world has known,” said Walberg. “They are precisely what our schools require.”