The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Mamonites and the Pork Barrel

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that "a group representing atheists and agnostics has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education over federal funds that were earmarked for Alaska Christian College. The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the Congressionally directed, noncompetitive grants violate the constitutional separation of church and state. The college, which is unaccredited and does not offer degrees, is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska.

'This is tantamount to religious pork,' Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based foundation, said on Wednesday. 'It's the kind of thing you would expect in a theocracy.'

Since 2003, Alaska Christian College, a five-year-old institution with 37 students, has received more than $1-million in federal earmarks. That includes $835,000 in Education Department money for student scholarships, student recruitment, and faculty salaries, and $350,000 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for a residential substance-abuse program for teenagers.

Alaska's three members of Congress -- Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, all Republicans -- were responsible for the earmarks. "

Never mind religion. What in the world is an unaccredited college of 37 students doing with over $1 million in taxpayer money? Isn't this called theft? Or bribery? With the bribe going from Washington to Alaska?

While earmarks are controversial in higher education, one would like to think that at least in the most egregious cases there is still some level of competency and minimum standards on the receiving end. The Department of Education recently announced it was ending the FIPSE program - the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education - a grant programs for institutions pursuing novel advances in teaching -- because so much of the money for the program was already earmarked in appropriations bills. Instead of the Department of Education choosing the novel education ideas, Hill staffers have taken over the job. And the most important feature in a proposal is the Congressional District of the proposer. A recent review of earmarks in health research indicates that the third largest recipient of Federal largesse in this area was that bastion of advanced scientific research -- Mississippi.


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