The Public Interest

Towards excellence in education

Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Summer 1995

THE battle lines over education reform have been drawn. Republican presidential candidates urge that the 15-year-old Department of Education be scrapped, and several members of Congress have already introduced “abolition” bills. A huge ruckus has arisen over federal interference, national standards, outcome-based education, and the Clinton Administration’s Goals 2000 program.  Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration seeks $30.7 billion in fiscal year (FY) 1996 to fund the Department of Education’s 250-odd programs. That is not a vast sum by contemporary Washington standards, but it works out to nearly $500 for every school and university student in the land. It is not unreasonable to ask what sort of return we can expect on this investment in relation to the problems plaguing American education today.

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