Way, way back in the spring of 2009, I talked to a very smart school superintendent, in Bentonville, Ark., who told me that the stimulus could be the worst thing ever for proponents of increased education spending.
“I can hear Chester Finn now,” Gary Compton said, referring to the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, who generally doesn’t think that more money for schools equals better results. “We gave public education $100 billion and have ACT scores gone up? Have we closed the divide between rich and poor kids?’ ... That’s always your biggest fear, that this will be just fuel for that fire.”
Well, if the 2010 midterm election is any indication, the backlash is here in a big way. For now critics don’t seem to be linking the spending to educational outcomes, but ... maybe give them some time.
Some examples of campaign ads that trash the stimulus:
• A spot criticizing Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., who is running Senate, for his vote on the stimulus which features “socially-conscious sock-puppets.” You can check out the ad itself, and a fact-check, here.
• An ad, paid for by the American Action Network shows (arguable) deficit impact of the stimulus. It’s pretty cute and features kids carrying super heavy backpacks,as a metaphor all the debt Congress piled on their backs. The group is running nearly identical ads in the district of at least Democratic incumbents, Reps. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Tom Periello, also of Virginia and Tim Walz of MInnesota...so I guess those same kids with the same backpacks are going to school in both the North Star State and different parts of the Old Dominion.
• Americans for Prosperity also ran this ad in several congressional districts which charges that the stimulus was a bunch of pork.
• Another ad in Washington state rips on Sen. Patty Murray, another Democratic incumbent, for “18 years of reckless spending.” And it says the stimulus failed to create jobs. The ad, and a fact check are here.
(But no ads quote Checker Finn. Sorry Mr. Compton!)