Space vs. education

An article in the Council Bluffs (Iowa) Sunday Nonpareil suggests that some educators may be opposed to the Bush space plan because of the perception that it’s taking money away from educational programs. The opening paragraph is blunt:

Is the exploration of Mars more important than the education of your child? “Clearly, their priorities are off,” said John Hieronymous, president of the Iowa State Education Association. “The president is suggesting sending someone to Mars is worthwhile, much more worthwhile than education.”

The article creates a false dichotomy that there exists a pot of money that can be spent either on space or on education, but nothing else: in other words, every dollar spent on NASA is one less for teachers and textbooks. Of course, that’s not the case. School districts are supported by local and state funds in additional to federal monies, while NASA is reliant solely on the federal government. Even at the federal level NASA and the Deptment of Education don’t directly compete with one another: NASA is grouped, along with other independent agencies, with HUD and Veterans Affairs, while Education shares an appropriations subcommittee with Labor and HHS.

I bring up this article for two reasons. One is that Council Bluffs probably isn’t the only place in the US where educators and/or students think NASA is somehow taking money away from educational programs: it’s a fairly typical Midwestern town. How I know that is the second reason I mention this article: I grew up in Council Bluffs, although I have long since moved away.

4 comments to Space vs. education

  • Space exploration is a powerful motivator for people of all ages to want to learn. I don’t think many people doubt this any more.

  • Actually, part of the reason people think like this — and a large part of the problem with NASA’s existing funding — are the committees they dwell in inside Congress. NASA is stuck under VA-HUD & Independent Agencies in both houses of Congress. This means that every time they go for a budget increase, they run up against tons of people saying, “You’re taking money from poor homeless children!” or the like. If NASA’s funding came out of its own committee, or even a more favorable existing committee, a lot of its budgetary issues would disappear.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    Some slightly random observations:

    This article is twice as long as it should be. The Daily Nonpareil needs to educate its editor.

    For a staff writer, Mr. Boyce is remarkably opinionated. Some of the assertions in the article would not pass journalism 101.

    Why is NASA picked as the whipping boy here? Other than a single mention of an earmark for an indoor rain forest, couldn’t they come up with other examples of wasteful government spending? Why not pick on something nearer and dearer to the left’s heart, like funding for arts programs?

    The author’s understanding of the budget is pretty limited. Considering that the federal budget deficit is topping $500 billion this year, why doesn’t Mr. Boyce argue for using NASA funds to balance the budget? Or alternatively, why doesn’t he argue for adding an extra $9 billion to the deficit?

    Two can play at this game. Are there things more important than education? How about starving babies? Maybe we should take money out of education to help feed starving babies? Or maybe the people who want more education spending prefer that all those starving babies die, huh? (A little devil’s advocacy there.)

  • Jayrtfm

    or…. take money out of school sports programs and use that for education