The Constitution on Education, and an Education on the Constitution
At Joe's behest, I am moving this discussion from the comments of this entry to a new entry.
It all started with the assertion by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (a.k.a. "Puffy") that "the US has some of the highest crime rates anywhere in the world." In debunking that myth, I mentioned that the murder rate for White victims in the U.S. is about even with Canada's overall murder rate. (Canada does not publish racial statistics of murder victims.) We got to discussing why the murder rate for Black victims is nine times higher than for White victims, and twice as high as for Hispanic victims. Here is the rest of the conversation:
Puffy's comments are in the blocks, mine are not.
My point was that whenever initiatives are proposed to address the problems facing disaffected communities, it seems like the opposition to those initiatives always comes from the right side of the spectrum.
and it's typically a "we don't have the money to pay for this program" argument. Bush just cut education funding again. It's one of the biggest cuts to education yet, and it means schools are going to offer less programs and tuition rates at universities are going to go up again.
"we don't have the money" The sick thing is that the amount cut from education is about the same as we spend in Iraq in four-five days.
now how does that make sense? Iraq is to protect us against terrorism? How many Americans have died in terrorist attacks in the last 10 years? In the past 10 years, how many Americans have died in inner-city violence, never having had the opportunity to get out, or to work on improving their communities?
how do you justify our budgetary priorities?
OK. Let's see where this goes. Find the Constitutional Authority for the Feral Government to spend ANY money for education.
I'll take that as your answer to the question "how do you justify our budgetary priorities?"
Education is not mentioned in the constitution, nor, i might add, is baseball. However the fed. has historically been involved in both these and a myriad other things not mentioned in the constitution. I did not say that Bush's budgetary cuts were illegal or unconstitutional. They are, however, stereotypically obtuse.
here are my questions to you:
1.) Do you think these cuts to education are more likely to benefit or harm public school children, particularly in the inner city?
2.) Is it wise, forward thinking policy for the government to look for excuses (eg. "it isn't in the constitution") not to invest tax dollars in the educational system?
I was unaware that baseball was subsidized by the feral government.
Now, in partial answer to your questions, the Governments have no money of their own. It is taxpayers' money. So why do you assume the feral government is better qualified to administer education programs than are the States? Perhaps it is the excellent quality of the D.C. public schools?
1) The feral government is less efficient, in general, than are the several States. Thus, cutting feral education programs, which would leave money in the taxpayers hands (for the States to tax) would indeed improve the education of the children of the States, assuming that education is the priority of that particular State.
2) That is a State function. "It's not in the Constitution" is not an excuse, but a fact. You seem to ignore that it is not "the government," but "the governments," and the States spend a lot of money on education. The reason the feral government was given specific, enumerated powers was to have a clear divison of powers between the feral government and the States. This avoids conflicting laws, and allows local solutions to local problems.
If you wish to change the Constitution to allow the feral government to control the schools, go for it. The founding fathers gave us an amendment process, too.
I didn't say baseball was funded by the fed.gov., but that the fed.gov. has historically been involved in baseball. the point is that the fed.gov. has had it's hands in a variety of things which the constitution says nothing about. Another example are national parks. Does the constitution say anything about national parks? (no) So does that mean it would be a good idea for the fed.gov to stop funding national parks? presumably your answer is no.
the "rights" which we have under the constitution, like "life, liberty, and p. of h." universal suffrage, etc. tend to be things that don't cost the gov. anything. it doesn't follow that the government shouldn't fund anything.
By placing the costs of education solely on state governments, you're tying the education system to the economic performance of each state. So if a state has an economic downturn, it's education system will suffer; poor states have less money for education, so the next generation is also poor, etc. How is that good for America?
The best way to insure an even system nationwide is for the fed.gov. so subsidize education. It does, and public schools across the country depend on this money. It's through the threat of cutting this money that the admin enforces it's "no child left behind" program.
additionally, the fed. can take advantage of economies of scale in a bigger way than each of the states can on their own, and it can, in effect, set up bigger trust funds.
in short, I do not believe this is a "constitutional" matter, but that the administration has failed to understand that the nation's educational system depends on the federal government's capacity to redistribute resources.
your statements suggest that you're a libertarian. Do you think education should be privatized?
I think MLB legitimately comes under "regulating interstate commerce."
You presume too much. The Libertarian Party recommends selling off the National Parks and Forests. However, there is some debate as to whether that falls under the "general welfare of the States."
The phrase "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The feral government should fund those things it has the authority to fund. Everything else is left to the States, or the People (10th Amendment).
It is not the business of the feral government to "equalize" the schools. The States put in the school systems they want.
I do have libertarian leanings. However, I describe myself as a Constitutionalist. I do not advocate eliminating the public school system, only that the feral government stay out of it, except for D.C., of course. When D.C. is a model for the world, but not before then, I will consider altering the Constitution to allow the feral government into the State's school systems. I do, however, favor vouchers and school choice.
Now, you say you "do not believe this is a constitutional matter." So is it OK to ignore the Constitution when it is convenient to do so?
public education doesn't fall under, "general welfare of the states"?
now I'm not a constitutional scholar myself, but as a "constitutionalist" I'm sure you're aware that the majority of the constitution is built around a sort of "negative liberty", in that it tells the fed.gov. what NOT to do. And that while it does grant some specific powers, it does not mandate these things. i.e. "Congress shall have power to..." not "Congress WILL..." So since education is not mentioned, subsidizing education is not "ignoring the constitution," but operating within the "silence of the law" (I believe 'the other side' uses a variation of this argument to justify domestic surveillance programs, which seem much more dubious to me than the funding of public schools)
but even if 'congress shall have the power' to subsidize education, a cut in education, while being a poor policy choice, would still be constitutionally legit, right?
I think the point still stands that the F.G. is in a greater position than the states to take advantage of economies of scale, to set up educational endowments which generate greater interest, etc. And I fundamentally disagree that the F.G. doesn't have a role to play in redistributing resources. It is the states at the bottom of the "average income" list which need the greatest investment in education, and those same states are in the worst position to make that investment without the aid of the F.G.
now I'm not saying that the FG should RUN the educational systems, but that it plays a key role in their funding. ultimately, you can argue that the constitution doesn't mandate that the FG spend money on education, and you'll be right. But I'm asking you, "do you think it's good policy not to?"
I'm assuming you do. I do not.
You are exactly wrong. The U.S. Constition says what the fed can do, and everything else is left to the States or the People in the 10th Amendment.
Public education is specific to the States and schools that get the money. How does it benefit one State to tax it's people for the education of those in another State?
Furthermore, the only "economy of scale" that the feral government seems to be good at is wasting money on a grand scale. With all the complaints about Defense contracts run wild, you want that for the schools, too? Do you want all of our schools to be of the D.C. quality? The feral government is responsible for the D.C. public schools.
Since there is no link between more money and better schools, your whole argument for federal money is moot.
Please show me, in the Constitutioni, where the feral government is allowed to "redistribute resources" from the rich states to the poor ones.
The feral government does NOT play a key role in the funding of the public school system. I believe the number is about 5%.
I think it is bad policy to take money from the people, funnel it though the wasteful hands running the F.G., then send it back to the States. Let the money stay in the States for the purposes they deem best.
One size does NOT fit all.
"Please show me, in the Constitutioni, where the feral government is allowed to "redistribute resources" from the rich states to the poor ones."
You know it isn't there. What's your point? Please show me where in the constitution the fed. has the right to fund manned missions to the moon. Please show me where in the constitution the gov. has the right to tap telephones.
not there either, right? not explicitly stated, so it follows that these things are unconstitutional, right?
ok, so I'm not sure if it's the case that the constitution tells the gov. what it can do, like you say. Seems like the constitution tells the gov what is it's prerogative to do, and than issues a bunch of "thou shalt nots" aimed at the gov.
"Congress shall make no law..."
"the right...shall not be infringed"
"the right of the people...shall not be violated"
(here I'm paraphrasing my trusty ACLU bill of rights book mark)
But you can't tell me that this money doesn't matter to school systems. School systems across the country are bending over backwards to keep this funding from the F.G., and even when they do everything right, they still suffer. In the school system I went to, they've had to cut language programs, stuff kids into overcrowded classes rather than hiring new teachers, give kids art classes only once every 10 weeks, do fewer science experiments, and all this after meeting all of the so-called "no-child-left-behind" program.
There's been no major change to the tax base in the community, or in state funding of public schools. The difference is in the F.G. policy toward public schools. on top of Bush's budgetary cuts (presumably to fund wars and tax cuts to the rich), schools are financially strained due to the costs on implementing the programs mandated under the NCLB program.
so... here are a couple questions:
What's with the domestic surveillance argument that it's legal because it isn't specifically prohibited in the constitution?
and, by your analysis, education is solely the jurisdiction of the states according to the constitution. So are you saying that the funding of public education by the Federal Government is in fact illegal?
First, the wiretapping is of known Al Qaeda members making calls to people in the U.S. That seems to be providing for the common defense.
Specific NASA programs are certainly of dubious constitutionality, but there can be little doubt that the overall technology gains made by NASA have greatly contributed to the general quality of life in the U.S., and in the world. Here is a list of some NASA spin-offs.
The Constitutional quotes you give are from the Bill of Rights, which was not part of the original document.
OK, let's accept your incorrect premise that your school system needs more money, rather than better mangagement of the money it already has. You are already complaining about NCLB!! And you want MORE of that?
It's for reasons like NCLB that the original Constitution did not have direct election of the Senators. Such unfunded mandates would never occur if the State legislatures still appointed their Senators. With direct election of Senators, our central government stopped being federal. Having gotten out of control of the States, it is now feral.
"What's with the domestic surveillance argument that it's legal because it isn't specifically prohibited in the constitution?"
I certainly made no such argument. The federal government does have the duty to "provide for the common defense... of the United States." If you are speaking of the above-mentioned Al Qaeda call, I discussed it above. Was there something else?
"So are you saying that the funding of public education by the Federal Government is in fact illegal?"
That is exactly what I'm saying.
Now, I have a couple of questions for you:
1) The feral government is responsible for the D.C. public schools. Is that the kind of system you want for your children?
2) If the feral government starts dictating curricula via standardized tests, how will we have competition for textbooks?
3) If the feral government starts dictating curricula, by whatever means, how do we protect our children from the propaganda of whatever administration happens to be in power?
first, I think the Bill of Rights is de facto a part of the Constitution.
ok, now I'm just going to answer these questions:
1. No, I do not want the federal gov. in charge of schools.
2. I do believe that standardized tests aren't necessarily beneficial to education.
3. I do not believe the gov. should dictate the curriculum
now, the FG has historically funded education in the States w/o dictating curricula. What NCLB did was say, "OK, we'll keep funding you, but only if you do this, this, and this."
trouble is, doing "this, this, and this" cost a lot of money, and NCLB didn't provide funds to pay for it's implementation, it only had the threat of cutting all funds. But schools shelled out the money to implement the program anyway because they depend on that money. Particularly in poor rural towns (like the one I grew up in) which cannot fall back on a solid tax base when faced with funding cuts.
So schools pay to implement the program to keep the federal funds, and what's Bush do? Starts cutting education funds anyway. That's my beef.
Now I'm not saying the gov needs to be running schools. I am saying that it needs to be funding them.
So we can make arguments about the constitutionality of funding education, and you can claim that flying around in space contributes to "the general quality of life in the US," but public schools don't. But you might also want to practice this:
That's Chinese for, "But it wasn't specified in the Constitution"
The Bill of Rights is part of the Constitution, but it was not when the Constitution was passed. But so what? The Constitution gave the federal government specific, enumerated powers. The Bill of Rights limited those powers further, and even specified that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Now, I have conceded that the space program was on shaky ground, Constitutionally. However, space exploration is not something that can be done by individual States. Schools are something the States can do. In fact, the Dept. of Education did not even exist until 1980, and the feral government has NEVER provided more than 10% of the money for public schools.
Bush has proposed a 5.5% decrease in discretionary spending for the Dept. of Education. That's about 0.5% of all public school funding. That doesn't sound so horrible, especially when the cuts are targeted to programs that have not been working.
Now, two more questions:
1) Has public education gotten better or worse since we created the Dept. of Education in 1980?
2) Has the feral government ever given out money without attaching strings to it?
Follow-up question to (2):
2a) Why do you think the feral government will not start dictating curricula, if it is providing money?
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