Kevin Sonoff – Primary and Secondary Education: The Path to Recovery

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“Primary and Secondary Education: The Path to Recovery”

$100 million is approximately .0027% of the United States’ national budget for 2012. The challenge of allocating these funds is less an exercise in choosing the most deserving government program and more an exercise in finding a way to create a noticeable impact with so few dollars. It is for this reason that 100% of these funds be allocated toward primary and secondary education and distributed at the local government level.

According to the New York Times’ analysis of President Obama’s FY2012 budget, elementary and secondary education will see a 10.4% decrease in funding in the coming year. As the U.S. trudges its way into the fifth year of the Great Recession, elementary and secondary education is the last place the Administration should be looking for badly needed spending cuts. Cutting education will not only result in more layoffs of young, talented, and enthusiastic instructors in the short-run, but will cripple American competitiveness globally for years to come.

The U.S. needs to invest in providing children with a solid primary education to help them succeed in college and in their future careers. That said, the federal government is ill-equipped to allocate these funds in a way that will impact the greatest number of students. These funds must be distributed by local governments who can see first-hand where the greatest needs lie. The federal government’s system of education performance evaluation is a short-sighted method of identifying which schools are most deserving of additional federal funding. Local government officials need not review standardized test scores to know which schools and programs within their local districts would benefit most from additional funds.

Distributing these funds should begin by dividing the $100 million among each of the states by percentage of total U.S. population. In other words, California, at 11.91% of total U.S. population, would receive 11.91% of the remaining funds or $11.9 million. Next, each state will identify the top twenty-five fastest growing school districts per capita by total enrollment. Once selected, each school district will receive an equal percentage of the total state allotment. Individual schools will be invited to submit program proposals directly to their school district board who will be responsible for distributing the funds as they see fit. School boards will be encouraged to fund programs with longevity and the greatest near-term impact on student education and growth. In return for the award, recipient schools will be required to create a report detailing the impact that the funds had on their school.

In midst of economic turmoil and uncertainty, the U.S. is faced with countless budget allocation decisions that directly impact the lives of all Americans. It’s easy for public administrators to think only in terms of what decisions will have the largest near-term impact. And yet, as a country, we need look past today’s problems and invest wisely in education to help us emerge from the recession stronger and better equipped to deal with the next national challenge.


Read other finalist essays for the GovLoop/NASPAA Scholarship.

– Evan White – “Promise Neighborhoods for a Promising Future”

– Mark Van Horn – “Using Computer Games to Simulate Policy Problems in the United States”

– Mauricio Cifuentes – “The Social Innovation Fund: Implementing Effective Bottom-up Solutions”

– Jay Sher – “Federal R&D Prizes for Technological Investment and Innovation”

– Danny Vasconcellos – “Government Getting it Right: The GAO”

– Maggie Healy – “Funding the Information Age, Beyond Infrastructure”

– Alex Luboff – “A Fiscal, Social, and Environmental Sustainability: Urban Agriculture Fighting Poverty”

– Joseph Towner – “Community Service Grants”

– Elizabeth Selbst – “Fund Local Land Banking to Reverse Urban Sprawl”

– Neil Patrick Reilly – “A Boost to Rentals and Public Housing”

– Lee Blum – “The World’s Best Vocational Institute”

– Brian Footer – “Local Government Grant Program”

– Peter Thomas – “Government Knowing Its Constituents”

– Daniel Turner – “Invest in the Future”

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Neil Bonner

I like the idea of returning money back to the states and put it under local control. I do take exception however that $100M is “so few dollars.” You know our government has grown too big when $100M is considered chump change.

Kevin Sonoff

Hi Neil – I appreciate your comment. I agree that it’s easy to get disillusioned by the size of our federal government. It’s hard to really comprehend it’s true size and see how individuals like you and I can hope to make any sort of noticeable change. That said, I find this to be an intriguing exercise. With the size of our federal government, it’s not hard to envision a process of budget reallocation where we could take very small and carefully calculated portions of certain program budgets (…say the Congressional health care plan) and move it to a different program where the money could make a sizable impact (like special education or nutrition education for elementary school children).