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.