Education is crucial. It’s a bedrock of our society. So, with that in mind, calls to cut government spending for education can draw strong rebuke. Often, critics argue it’s immoral. That’s been the case with the release of the Trump administration’s budget proposal.
In a piece published at The Hechinger Report, Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, makes the case that cutting education spending can be done in “good conscience”:
Release of the Trump administration’s education budget proposal, which would make about $9 billion in cuts, has been met with unfortunately predictable moral condemnation. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, declared the budget proposal “manifestly cruel to kids.” President Obama’s second education secretary, John King, called it “an assault on the American dream” and said, “no one in good conscience could … say this budget makes sense for the interests of students and the long-term interest of the country.”
Simply out of fairness to those with whom we disagree, and to make our national dialogue less poisonous, it is time to cease such incendiary, politically weaponized rhetoric. People can have other views than we do without being heartless or evil. We must also steer clear of debate-ending condemnation for the sake of good policy: while the intent behind most federal education spending is laudable, the consequences far too often do not seem to be.
McCluskey writes there’s not much proof that increased federal spending has benefited our education system. When programs succeed, he adds there may be “many morally fine reasons to trim or eliminate them.”
He points to proposed cuts in student aid programs:
A normal, gut reaction is that such cuts would make college less affordable, and in the short-term they might. But logic, and considerable empirical evidence, make a potent case that aid programs are a major reason that college is so expensive. Federal aid has enabled institutions to raise their prices as breakneck rates, often driven by a desire to do things they think are valuable, but also to make the lives of employees more comfortable, and to furnish sometimes extraordinary amenities that heavily subsidized students demand. “Aid,” in other words, may well be self-defeating … or worse.
Arguing for such cuts isn’t “immoral,” McCluskey writes. It’s actually focused on producing positive results and looking out for future generations.
“The case for cutting federal education spending is powerful, with federal programs often producing poor outcomes with money taken from future generations and without Constitutional authority,” he argues.