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Reform: Disaster Economics, Education-Style

image from www.newyorker.comAs New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut try and wrest $80 billion in Hurricane Sandy recovery funding out of Washington, it's worth noting that they face much the same challenges as advocates for federal education programs: it's easier to get Congress to approve funding for post-disaster recovery than it is to get Congress to approve funding for pre-disaster prevention.

The dynamics are illustrated in last week's New Yorker article, Disaster Economics, which points out that big-ticket items like dams and raised highways are unlikely to get much attention from lawmakers in Washington no matter what the economic or political situation the nation faces.  

Reading the piece it occurs to me that education is in much the same situation, fighting tooth and nail for roughly $50 billion in annual federal education funding that most of it goes towards recovery.  Title I (NCLB) dollars are essentially poverty recovery funding, right? 

It would take at least another $50 billion a year, for at least ten years, to mount a universal preschool effort nationwide, but, as with disaster recovery, Congress prefers to wait until the damage is done and pay for it afterwards -- even if the costs are much much larger than they have to be.  And reformers and teachers both seem to prefer to fight over relatively minor policy issues rather than focusing on big things they agree on but don't benefit them directly.


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great observation Alex. Maybe if we let congress persons affix plaques to the backs of three-year olds (Sponsored by Representative Joe Smith) they could grow interested in the longer term issues?

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