Just this month, Detroit Public Schools announced they plan to spend $49 million in federal money (thanks to “the stimulus”) to push more technology in the district, including the purchase and distribution of 40,000 new laptop computers for students.

The problem? This is a school district rife with academic failure. In fact, results from a U.S. Department of Education exam found that fourth- and eighth-graders at Detroit Public Schools placed the lowest reading scores among urban school districts in the country. The Nation’s Report Card found Detroit fourth-graders reading at 73 percent below the national level, with only 22 percent of students meeting even basic reading requirements. Similarly, the eighth-graders are reading at 60 percent below the national average, with only 34 percent meeting basic requirements.

Of course, if the abysmal academic performance wasn’t reason enough to withhold more federal funding, the district’s financial problems should have been. Detroit Public Schools are all but bankrupt and under state receivership in order to help manage the district’s finances.

As far as I can tell, this is the definition of “rewarding failure.”

As a former speechwriter, I’m well aware that education is one of those seemingly innocuous issues you can throw into a big, “kitchen-sink” speech like the SOTU. Everyone loves the sound of investing more in education.

If President Obama, however, really wanted to improve education in Detroit, he should have returned that money to Michigan taxpayers and given them an opportunity to consume education just like anything else — based on their individual needs and priorities.

Unfortunately, this broken promise is not just more wasted money — it’s wasted futures.

Sabrina L. Schaeffer is a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum and managing partner of Evolving Strategies.