Title I: Not making the grade
By Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld
If any proof is needed that federal education programs don't work, and in fact
make things worse, all one has to do is look at the sorry record that Title I of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 has produced. Title I was supposed
to provide "compensatory education" for the economically and socially deprived --
the minorities and the poor, but mainly the minority poor. Its goal was to help
the inner-city poor reach the same academic level of achievement as those living
in affluent suburbs. After an expenditure of over $118 billion during the last 30
years, the achievement gap between those who were supposed to be helped by Title
I and everyone else is as great as ever. Why? Because Title I never addressed the
problem of faulty reading instruction in the schools. Why? Because if children were
taught to read by intensive, systematic phonics, there would be no need for Title
Believe it or not, most of the $118 billion was used to hire more than 50,000
local Title I directors, plus thousands of school aides and teacher assistants.
In fact, more than 132,000 classroom positions have been paid for by the billions
put into the program. This is an example of how throwing money at a problem produces
even more failure, because now 132,000 jobs are at stake, and the only way to keep
those jobs alive is to keep producing enough learning disabled students to fill
the Title I classrooms, and whole-language instruction does the job.
Earlier this year the Boston Globe interviewed Jerome T. Murphy, dean of Harvard
University's Graduate School of Education, who helped write Title I legislation
in 1965. In response to Title I's failure, he said, "It's a classic situation where
yesterday's reform becomes today's obstacle." But we doubt that Dean Murphy would
want to get government out of the education reform business. The report states that
Title I "was created to help students overcome inherent barriers that poverty poses
to academic achievement."
Millions of impoverished people were able to achieve academic excellence in this
country throughout our history. Marva Collins, with her private school in Chicago,
has proven that there are no inherent barriers to academic achievement in poverty.
In fact, poverty is a strong incentive to achieve academically, since such achievement
is the surest road out of poverty.
Of course, the Congress has no intention of eliminating Title I or the rest of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Once a federal river of cash flow has
been opened for the education establishment, the latter has enough clout not only
to keep it open, but to increase its flow. This was seen last week when the House
voted 358-67 not only to renew Title I, but to increase the funding from $7.7 billion
last year to nearly $10 billion.
"Now, we are beginning to fix the programs," said Education and Workforce Committee
Chairman William F. Goodling, after the bill passed. Goodling, it should be noted
is a Republican. If he really thinks throwing more money at the education establishment
is going to fix anything, he is either stupid or a hypocrite. Do you wonder why
conservative voters have lost confidence in Republican legislators? None of them
-- with the possible exception of Ron Paul -- has the courage to stand up and say
that it is government's intrusion into education that has led to our literacy disaster.
The government should get out of the education business, for it has created a
stranglehold monopoly that gives the American people the worst possible education
at the highest possible price. Over $118 billion has been squandered on so-called
compensatory education that has been a total bust as education, and there is no
public outrage. Why? Because too many people in America have become as dishonest
and hypocritical as their government. Or maybe they believe that with such good
people as Bill Goodling in charge, Congress must know what it's doing.
In an attempt to put a conservative spin on the $10 billion authorized for Title
I, House Majority Leader Dick Armey proposed that $100 million of that $10,000 million
be used to fund vouchers that students in failing schools could use to attend private
schools. That amendment was defeated by 257 to 166, with 52 Republicans joining
204 Democrats and one independent in opposing vouchers. Not that conservatives necessarily
think that government vouchers are a good idea. The opposition to vouchers by conservatives
is, however, for different reasons than given by those who opposed the Armey amendment.
Conservatives are concerned that government vouchers would simply bring government
control into the private sector, and they want to get government out of education,
not more deeply into it.
Conservatives in Congress are forced by political pressures to do the wrong thing.
If conservatives in Congress cannot vote to get the government out of the education
business, then they have no business calling themselves conservatives. Or maybe
we are using the wrong terms. Maybe to them "conservative" means conserving the
present governmental status quo. What we need in Congress are constitutional radicals
who want our government to return to basic Constitutional principles. The simple
truth is that you are a radical if you want your government to adhere to the Constitution
of the United States.
The word radical comes from the Latin word "radix," meaning roots. My Webster's
New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, 1988, gives the first definition of
radical as "of or from the root or roots; going to the foundation or source of something;
fundamental; basic." That's not what our so-called conservative Congressmen are
about. There are among them, undoubtedly, a few who truly want the government to
adhere to Constitutional principles. They are true radicals. But they are a small
number, and their "moderate" colleagues can always side with socialist Democrats
to frustrate radical Republicans.
It is obvious that the politically correct who control vocabulary change have
corrupted our language to such an extent that we really cannot use words properly
without being misunderstood. This is particularly the case in politics. Today's
liberals are really socialists. Today's moderates are liberals. Today's conservatives
are really statists who want to maintain the present status quo. If you are a right-wing
radical, or Constitutional fundamentalist, you are called an extremist. And the
American people are kept in check more by the use of words than by the use of force.
Meanwhile, the Senate is planning to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act in a single bill next year, undoubtedly with more money for Title I. We hear
that a new federal preschool program is also in the works. Wait till the federal
government gets its molesting hands on the preschoolers. You can be sure that the
10 million students now in Title I programs will be doubled.