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Where Would Obama Cut Education?

By Alyson Klein — September 29, 2008 1 min read
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During Friday night’s debate, Sen. Barack Obama said that Sen. John McCain’s plan to freeze domestic discretionary spending would amount to using a hatchet on the federal budget when a scalpel is called for.

To help Obama and his scalpel out, Mike Petrilli over at the Fordham Foundation has a list of programs that he says are ripe for elimination in the federal budget - although he says that some of them (like the “Exchanging With Historic Whaling and Trading Partners”) have strong backers in Congress and probably aren’t going anywhere.

And he says:

A “spending freeze” might be an empty political slogan, but so is this talk about wielding a “scalpel.” Until the president gets line-item veto authority (which would probably require a constitutional amendment), or until Congress gets serious about protecting taxpayer dollars, our federal budget is likely to be overloaded with all manner of wasteful excess. And there’s very little that the president—any president—can do about it.

But many of the programs on this list are absolutely, never ever going to be on the chopping block during an Obama administration and not just because Congress isn’t likely to go along with the cuts, but because Obama himself has championed them.

The most obvious is the Teacher Quality Enhancement grants. Last year, when Congress was poised to slash the program by 66 percent, Obama took to the floor and urged his colleagues to go with a higher appropriation in a different version of the bill (it was cut pretty significantly anyway).

The TQE is the main source of funding for the teacher residency programs, which allow districts to partner with colleges of education to offer beefed up field experiences to prospective educators. The proposal is a cornerstone of Obama’s education plan and part of his stump speech. So that’s almost certainly out.

And it’s tough to see Obama scrapping the Even Start Family literacy program, and not just because of it’s “fuzzy” name, as Petrilli puts it. Obama seems to be a believer in education programs that target parents—he’s got something in his education proposal about expanding home visitation and other services to first-time, low-income mothers. So even if Even Start is zeroed out (unlikely, I think) the funding would probably go to another program aimed at disadvantaged families.

I’d also be pretty surprised if Obama tried to use his scalpel on the Parent Information and Resource Centers, not when his education plan calls for schools to work with parents to set behavior expectations and “shared values.” If Obama did get rid of the PIRC’s it would probably be to set up some other program aimed at bolstering parental involvement.

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