I’ve always wondered if a local school board would be better off rejecting all federal money—and, finally relieved of untold mandates, it could reallocate its local and state funds more efficiently . . . to the point that it was actually better off without the lost funds.
This old idea came to mind again after reading that South Carolina Education Superintendent Mick Zais had declared that his state wouldn’t compete for the latest round of Race to the Top funds.
His reasoning: Accepting the money was penny-wise and pound-foolish.
“In exchange for these dollars,” he wrote in a newspaper editorial, “‘winning’ states dance to Washington’s tune on education. When the music stops and the money is exhausted, states will be left on the dance floor and paying for their rides home. This is an all-too-familiar occurrence with federal programs.”
One specific complaint by Zais was that too much of the federal dollars would be diverted away from teacher pay, new school buses, up-to-date computers, or dozens of other purposes that actually would benefit local students.
“Rather,” he complained, “it would have paid for new employees at the state Department of Education and in district offices, contracts with out-of-state education consultants, rented office space, travel expenses and even $96,000 in box lunches.”