Yesterday, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to outline his latest plan to jump-start the economy. With 14 million workers unemployed and job creation stalled, the nation hoped for fresh ideas that will help put the American people back to work. Instead of offering a new vision to move the country forward, President Obama demanded more of the same policies that have burned workers and taxpayers in the past. The president’s flawed proposal will lead to:
More Failed Stimulus Spending
In 2009, Democrats in Washington pushed through an $821 billion stimulus plan with the promise it would keep unemployment below 8 percent. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 31 straight months and currently stands at 9.1 percent. Efforts to spend our way to an economic recovery do not work.
If spending more taxpayer dollars could fix a broken education system, our problems would have been solved long ago. The federal government has increased its investment in education by 425 percent since 1980. However, student achievement remains flat. Throwing more money at our education system will not improve student achievement or help fix the nation’s jobs crisis.
The American people demand a return to fiscal responsibility in Washington. The national debt is quickly approaching $15 trillion and we are borrowing roughly 40 cents of every dollar we spend. More stimulus spending will exacerbate our fiscal challenges and lead to the same devastating results.
Another Teacher Union Bailout
As part of their stimulus boondoggle, Democrats borrowed approximately $80 billion to inflate the budgets of state school systems. Although they pledged it was a one-time investment that would rescue the economy, effective teachers still lost their jobs and Democrats were soon demanding more taxpayer money.
In August of 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called members of Congress away from their constituents to pass yet another bailout for states and schools, using funding gimmicks and borrowed money to help “pay for” the bill. Today, the administration has more than $10 billion in unspent bailout funds, highlighting the waste and inefficiency of this failed policy.
Most school districts operate on a “last hired, first fired” policy that ignores the talent and success of our most promising teachers in order to protect more tenured educators. States and school districts across the country are making difficult choices to balance their budgets. Another teacher union bailout will not save the best teachers, it will simply force federal taxpayers to subsidize those who have been around the longest.
A Government Takeover of School Construction
The condition of public schools has become an important part of the education debate taking place across the country. That is why states and school districts spent almost $15 billion in school construction last year and more than $285 billion over the last 16 years. School construction has and should remain a state and local responsibility.
Local leaders know better than federal bureaucrats the needs of their communities and schools. Expanding the federal role in school construction could discourage private investment, waste scarce taxpayer resources, and increase the regulatory burden on an already strained education system. The federal government should focus on keeping the promises it has made, not on making unrealistic new ones.
The president’s proposal will place the nation on a slippery slope toward a federal takeover of school construction. Parents, teachers, and school administrators are already frustrated with an overly intrusive federal presence in their classrooms. The House of Representatives is crafting a new, more limited federal role in education, and putting Washington bureaucrats in the business of building schools will undermine that effort.
One More Handout to Big Labor
During his address before the American people, the president forgot to mention a costly string attached to any federal school construction proposal. A little known federal law requires that all construction projects administered by the Department of Education be subject to the requirements of the Depression-era Davis-Bacon Act.
The antiquated Davis-Bacon law is notorious for driving up costs of federal construction projects to the benefit of Democrats’ union allies. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office revealed this flawed law can result in either higher costs for taxpayers or lost compensation for construction workers.
In 2009, representatives of the nation’s small businesses and the National School Boards Association urged Congress to refrain from imposing Davis-Bacon requirements on school construction projects. As they noted, such a proposal “will cost taxpayers more to provide students with less.” Binding local school construction in an outdated federal law is bad for students, workers, and taxpayers.