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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It's a Good Idea but...

According to an editorial in this morning’s Washington Post, the US House and Senate have (separately) produced two Katrina education bills. It would be wonderful if one of these would go into action before their usefulness expires, but since they're both designed to be temporary (expiring at the end of this school year), I have little hope they’ll do much good. We're one week away from November already... running out of time.

The problem with them is not their intent, which is finding a way to pay for educating Katrina-victim schoolchildren. It’s that both bills are so politically charged, I can’t imagine them surviving the debates sure to follow.

The Senate approach made my skin crawl with its bureaucratic layers:

The authors want accountability; they do not want private schools spending the money on religious instruction, and they do not want to create an extra incentive for children to go to private school. So they would have the federal money go through the "normal" channels: from the federal government to state educational agencies to school districts
Wow. By the time all the hoops are jumped and the red-tape is cleared, the kids they’re talking about might have a shot at these funds in time for college.

The House bill, on the other hand, is so simplified that it seems pretty unlikely to survive the process intact. I just can’t believe the “powers-that-be” would ever allow so many layers of entrenched control-freaks to be by-passed:
The House bill proposes the creation of family reimbursement accounts, bypassing the states and school districts altogether. Parents would apply for and receive account numbers directly, and they would give their number to the school enrolling their child. The school would then seek reimbursement.

That just sounds way too straight-forward. Maybe I’m jaded – but I suspect both of these are going to get debated into oblivion. As the author said,

If a Katrina education bill passes, it will probably be after a good chunk of the school year is over; speed and efficiency should therefore be politicians' biggest concerns

On the good news side, maybe the Louisiana legislature will take heart from the bipartisan support for funding the displaced kids, and pass their own bill.