By federal standards, comparatively little money is spent on training teachers, but the excessive duplication and overlapping programs in this sliver of the budget stands out in a new report on government waste as a testament to bureaucratic inefficiencies.
In fiscal year 2009, the federal government spent $4 billion on professional development for teachers. But a report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says the money was divided among 82 different programs spread through 10 different government agencies.
Within the Department of Education itself, eight different offices administer 60 programs for teacher retraining. The GAO report suggested that evaluating the success of each is nearly impossible, because of a myriad of different criteria and manpower required to examine them would be prohibitively expensive.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a frequent critic of intransigent bureaucracies, said these duplicative and fragmented programs are proof that the money devoted to such programs would be better funneled to individual states, and even school boards.
"There are hundreds of millions of Americans that grew up without a Department of Education. And certainly, an argument can be made that they're better educated than people that have been around since 1977, when that department was created," Schatz told Fox News.
The Department of Education is working to reduce the redundancy of these programs. In the agency's annual reauthorization proposal to Congress, the Obama administration has proposed combining 38 programs for training current teachers into 11. Critics admit that's a start, but that Congress must take the lead in reigning in such profligate overlap and confusion.
A central problem in seeking efficiencies in these programs for educators is that the effectiveness of teacher retraining programs is almost impossible to measure. Each of the scores of programs has different criteria for success. To measure it, would require yet a new layer of bureaucracy.
As the GAO report says, "It is more costly to administer many separate authorized federal programs, because each program has it’s own policies, applications, award competitions , reporting requirements and in some cases, federal evaluations."