At the very moment of Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as secretary of Education, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. (A, 94%) pointedly introduced a bill calling for the elimination of the Department of Education.
This has been a long-held goal of conservative Republicans, and now that they control all three branches of government, there may never be a better opportunity to finally end the thing. One of the few policy areas in which President Trump has been consistent is his support for school choice and scorn for federal education policy.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday in 2015, Trump said, “I may cut the Department of Education,” and in his book “Crippled America,” released the same year, he wrote “A lot of people believe the Department of Education should just be eliminated. Get rid of it. If we don’t eliminate it completely, we certainly need to cut its power and reach. Education has to be run locally.” So there is opportunity if only Republicans in Congress are brave enough to seize it.
To help push them in the right direction, here are five reasons why the Department of Education should be eliminated.
The word “education” never occurs in the U.S. Constitution. Already, this should mean that the federal government has no business interfering with education policy, since the Constitution is a list of enumerated powers. In other words, the Constitution is a comprehensive list of things the federal government is allowed to do, and anything not included is de facto forbidden.
To make this doubly clear, the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights is explicit: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” There you have it. The power to set education policy is reserved to the states or the people. The federal government is not authorized to meddle.
The Department of Education comprises more than 80 subagencies, employs more than 4,000 people, and has an annual budget of nearly $70 billion. When you include other federal spending like Head Start and the School Lunch Program, that number swells to more than $100 billion.
With a national debt rapidly hurtling toward $20 trillion, this may be a drop in the bucket, but as a wise man once said, a few billion here and there eventually adds up to real money. It’s insane to think we couldn’t find better, more productive uses for $100 billion a year. Just off the top of my head, how about giving it back to the taxpayers?
Of course, maybe the federal government could justify this expense if it produced positive results.
The Department of Education has been around since 1979, and in that time, with the huge amounts of money that have poured into it, a reasonable person would expect to see massive improvements in educational performance.
In fact, we’ve seen no such thing. The more money we spend, the less students benefit. The department itself recently admitted that education spending isn’t producing any measurable results — a finding, which conforms with previous analyses of programs like Head Start and the department in general.
It may seem like an obvious question, but why are we continuing a program which has proven, time and time again, not to work?
Perhaps the most infamous of Department of Education initiatives was Common Core, foisted upon the states through a complex system of incentives and penalties with the goal of imposing standardization of testing and, to a certain extent, curricula across the whole country.
These wildly unpopular standards have been the source of outrage and confusion among parents and students alike, who found the math problems impossible, the history textbooks revisionist, and the constant testing oppressive.
But Common Core is far from the only soul-crushing program leveled at local schools from on high. The Department of Education also brought us the spectacular failures of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Head Start, and most recently the Every Student Succeeds Act.
All of these share the goal of making schools everywhere the same, in spite of the fact that different states, different cities, and different children have diverse education requirements that cannot be met by a single top-down structure.
Like every other market, the market for education thrives only when innovation, competition, and experimentation are allowed to flourish. The Department of Education has devoted itself to stamping out all of that.
Like so many other pseudoscientific pursuits, the Department of Education has been moving increasingly toward data collection and analysis in what it claims is an effort to improve student performance. Barack Obama’s Education secretary, Arne Duncan, made the following statement about his ambitions:
It may come as a surprise to education bureaucrats, but many parents are not comfortable with their children being “tracked” by the federal government. In many cases, parents have no idea what type of data is being collected on their children, and it is not easy to find out even if you are aware of the practice and want to know.
Nor are we just talking about test scores. A surprisingly candid 2013 report from the Department of Education provides a wish list of data collection, including the desire to monitor students’ facial expressions and eye movements during class, and then using the data to diagnosis learning disabilities or other problems.
In fact, schools may already be doing this; they are notoriously tight-lipped about data collection. The idea that a computer algorithm might diagnose one’s child with mental illness because he made the wrong expression in class is chilling, and we can be sure that it’s only the beginning of where the department would like to go in the future.
Bearing all these points in mind, it’s baffling that the government continues to fund and defend the Department of Education, which, by its own admission, has not improved student outcomes yet interferes with the freedoms of America’s children on a daily basis. The time is now. Abolish the Department of Education once and for all.
Logan Albright is a researcher for Conservative Review and director of research for Free the People. You can follow him on Twitter @loganalbright73.