NOVEMBER 17, 2014
While America’s failing public schools remain on a perpetual downward spiral, the U.S. government is spending tens of millions of dollars to help struggling students and improve academics in the Dominican Republic.
It may seem crazy, but unfortunately it’s simply one of a myriad of real-life stories illustrating how government wastes our tax dollars. To be fair, state governments and the feds—mostly via the U.S. Department of Education—spend boatloads of cash on public schools in this country, though it’s done little over the years to improve performance in the nation’s inner cities.
Now the cash giveaway includes a Caribbean island notorious for government corruption. In fact, our own State Department warns potential investors of an outlaw society in the Dominican Republic that includes bribe requests, failure of government and private sector entities to honor contracts, disregard for Dominican court rulings and a number of other unscrupulous practices. Internationally, the island nation of about 10 million is also well known as one of Latin America’s most corrupt which says a lot because the entire region is famously crooked.
Nevertheless, Uncle Sam is dedicating $20 million to improve education as part of President Obama’s mission to narrow the gap in every country—including the U.S.—that has what he believes to be marked income inequality. The program is known as Lighting Excitement for Excellency in Reading (LEER) and it sees to increase the reading skills of students by “supporting sustainable best practices in education in the Dominican Republic.” In all, America’s generosity is expected to improve the reading skills of approximately 200,000 Dominican kids. Considering the public education crisis in this country, it’s unlikely that this is a priority for most Americans.
The targets will be students in poor neighborhoods, according to the government grant announcement. They will be offered improved instruction and the use of traditional and supplemental reading activities, the announcement says. Reading will also be improved through the creation of school environments that are inclusive, safe, tolerant, and conducive to academic achievement for all students. Tolerance and respect for gender will also be promoted, the announcement confirms.
To take the edge off the sting for American taxpayers who are being forced to fund this initiative, the government appeals to our emotions: “The provision of a quality public education is one of the Dominican Republic’s most fundamental challenges,” the government states in its grant announcement. “Considerable research shows that low primary school completion and attainment rates and low secondary school enrollment rates are significant risk factors for participation in gangs and drug trafficking. Very few young Dominicans have the educational levels needed to allow them to enter the workforce.”
Though high school graduation numbers in the U.S. have improved in recent years, dropout rates for minority and poor students remain disproportionately high. This indicates we have no business sending millions to help academic performance among poor students in other countries, but rather should focus on our own citizens. The U.S. is already quite generous in this area because it actually lets Mexican kids cross the border daily for a free public school education. Back in 2009 Judicial Watch reported that the superintendent of a Texas public school district had to deploy staff members to a nearby border crossing to intercept hundreds of Mexican children who enter the country daily to attend school.
The Obama administration has also dedicated millions of dollars to cover the education costs of “migrant students” or the children of “seasonal farm workers” in the U.S. The program is part of the Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education which administers programs that provide academic and supportive services to the children of families who come to the U.S. to find work in the agricultural and fishing industries. Announcing a $5.9 million allocation for migrant students a few years ago, Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the money will “help hard working farm workers and their families obtain the quality education that they need to compete in the 21st century global economy.”
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