Should Congress dismantle U.S. Department of Education and embrace full local control of schools?

Should we get rid of the federal education agency?

Should we get rid of the federal education agency?

Considering that virtually all the countries outpacing the United States in educational attainment have national curriculums, the disdain for any federal involvement in education in this country seems inexplicable.

Despite laments about federal control of schools, American schools enjoy more local control over their schools than most any country in the developed world. As a result, the U.S. has dramatically uneven results from state to state. Historically, the lowest performing states have been in the South.

While there’s a nostalgia for schools of bygone days, America has never experienced a golden age of education. Yes, there was always an elite core of students for whom college was the expectation; they received quality educations. But there was a belief — shared by schools, parents and students — that the factory, farm and mill jobs awaiting most teens did not demand high-level thinking, writing or math skills. Kids could nap through math class or chemistry and still land a decent job in a factory.

As Phil Schlechty, author of “Working on the Work” and “Shaking up the Schoolhouse,” once told me, “Schools were designed to send 10 percent of students to college. In 1960, half the kids didn’t drop out of high school — because they didn’t come to school. They got through eighth grade and left. Schools are much better than they used to be at what they used to do, but we don’t want them to do that anymore.”

A changing economy has forced America to set higher goals for its schools; we have gone from trying to get every child enrolled in high school to trying to get every child to graduate high school. And we want these high school graduates prepared for postsecondary education or training.

Some states are up to the job as evidenced by the performance of their students on national and international benchmarks. Massachusetts is the standout there. Some are not.

Now, a United States representative from Kentucky wants to return to the glory days of old when there was no federal hand in education. U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie introduced a bill to abolish the federal Department of Education.

Give Massie credit for brevity: His bill contains one sentence — “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

Here is part of the statement Massie released about his effort to dismantle the education agency: (Notice a Georgian is one of the co-signers on this bill.)

“Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn.”

Massie added, “Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students. Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school.”

“For years, I have advocated returning education policy to where it belongs – the state and local level,” said Rep. Walter Jones, an original co-sponsor.  “D.C. bureaucrats cannot begin to understand the needs of schools and its students on an individual basis. It is time that we get the feds out of the classroom, and terminate the Department of Education.”

“I’ve always been a proponent of empowering parents, teachers and local school boards who best know our children and their needs,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, another original co-sponsor. “Eliminating the U.S. Department of Education is the most important step we in Congress can take in returning decision making to the local level.”

“Education of our students should lie primarily with parents, teachers, and state and local officials who know how to meet their individual needs best,” said freshman Rep. Andy Biggs. “Since its inception, the Department of Education has grown into an unrecognizable federal beast, and its policies have helped foster Common Core across the country. It is time the one-size-fits-all approach by the federal government is ended and authority is returned to the local level.”

The Department of Education began operating in 1980. On September 24, 1981, in his Address to the Nation on the Program for Economic Recovery, President Ronald Reagan said, “As a third step, we propose to dismantle two Cabinet Departments, Energy and Education. Both Secretaries are wholly in accord with this. Some of the activities in both of these departments will, of course, be continued either independently or in other areas of government. There’s only one way to shrink the size and cost of big government, and that is by eliminating agencies that are not needed and are getting in the way of a solution. Now, we don’t need an Energy Department to solve our basic energy problem. As long as we let the forces of the marketplace work without undue interference, the ingenuity of consumers, business, producers, and inventors will do that for us. Similarly, education is the principal responsibility of local school systems, teachers, parents, citizen boards, and State governments. By eliminating the Department of Education less than 2 years after it was created, we cannot only reduce the budget but ensure that local needs and preferences, rather than the wishes of Washington, determine the education of our children.”

Original co-sponsors include Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).

 

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49 comments
Tom in Dade
Tom in Dade

Are we going to return the burden of providing free and reduced lunches and seeing to the needs of special ed students...along with the hefty local property tax increases that such a shift would incur...as well.


No. So let's drop this ridiculous extremist rightwing fantasy once and for all. It ranks right up there with the movement to stop having US Senators directly elected by the people. That is, its passed around by the alt-right world, people who...oh, I don't know...fret because there's no Office for Caucasian Americans in the Dept of Ed...hint hint.




Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Given the fact that there are about 3.5 million teachers in the US and about 50 million students, it makes sense that the federal government have some degree of oversight.  Should it be a Cabinet level position?  That is the question.

The problem with the Dept of Education, well, ANY government agency, is that once created, they become a bureaucracy in search of a mission.

Just look through the ED offices for example.  An office of Civil Rights.  An office of Inspector General. An office for the education of Asian Americans.  An office for the education of African American.  Hispanic Americans.  Native Americans.  Native Alaskans.

An office for the education of Caucasian Americans?  Nope.  You're own your own.

Administer the grants.  Fund the research.  Ensure compliance with Federal Law.  Set some standards and measures of achievement so that a diploma from Ga is equivalent to a diploma from Oregon.  And get rid of about 2/3's of the bureaucrats in Washington.

Drain the Swamp, Devos.  Drain the Swamp.

Jennifer Falk
Jennifer Falk

No. There have to be checks and balances. I trust a dispassionate federal employee over a locally grown politician any day of the week.

Jennifer Falk
Jennifer Falk

Career employees at the federal government...Fat finger typo!

Cliff Higgins
Cliff Higgins

Really? At least you get to vote for the locally grown politician. So theoretically, he/she has some degree of accountability... even if it is only a token accountability.

Jennifer Falk
Jennifer Falk

You must not live in Gwinnett. Even the state folded and agreed that restrictions placed at the ballot box prevented votes from counting. And yes, I trust career employees at the ballot box more than any elected school board member or their boss Alvin Wilbanks.

bu22
bu22

@MaryElizabethSings Politico, the group that coordinated with Hillary Clinton.  Why not just get your quotes direct from the Democratic National Committee?

Tom Green
Tom Green

The money could certainly be used more effectively at the local level.

RolleTheorem
RolleTheorem

It is not rocket chemistry that all the sponsors of this nonsense are Republicans.  The first customary victim of Republican ascendancy is the truth and the second victim is common sense.


If we are competing in a global economy (something Republicans doubt like Global Warming) then it makes sense that the responsibility for the coordination has a central nervous system (the federal government).  


Republicans want 13,684 school systems to coordinate national education policy. No wonder they gave us a fiasco like the Iraq war.

Babycat
Babycat

Maybe the key phrase is the part about "American schools enjoy more local control over their schools than most any country in the developed world"  In Metro Atlanta it's the local control that is ruining the schools!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

In his own words, here is what Jimmy Carter did, per his original statement:


Education is our most important national investment. It commands the time and attention of 60 million Americans—3 citizens in 10. It consumes an annual public and private expenditure in excess of $120 billion. Every citizen has a vital, personal stake in this investment. Our ability to advance both economically and technologically, our country's entire intellectual and cultural life depend on the success of our great educational enterprise.


At no time in our history has our Nation's commitment to education been more justified. At no time in our history has it been more obvious that our Nation's great educational challenges cannot be met with increased resources alone.

I came to the office of the Presidency determined that the American people should receive a better return on their investment in education. I came equally determined that our Nation's formidable educational challenges should be brought to the forefront of national discussion where they belong.


Primary responsibility for education should rest with those States, localities, and private institutions that have made our Nation's educational system the best in the world, but the Federal Government has for too long failed to play its own supporting role in education as effectively as it could. Instead of assisting school officials at the local level, it has too often added to their burden. 


Instead of setting a strong administrative model, the Federal structure has contributed to bureaucratic buck passing. Instead of simulating needed debate of educational issues, the Federal Government has confused its role of junior partner in American education with that of silent partner.


The time has passed when the Federal Government can afford to give second-level, part-time attention to its responsibilities in American education. If our Nation is to meet the great challenges of the 1980's, we need a full-time commitment to education at every level of government—Federal, State, and local.


The Department of Education bill will allow the Federal Government to meet its responsibilities in education more effectively, more efficiently, and more responsively.


First, it will increase the Nation's attention to education. Instead of being buried in a $200 billion-a-year bureaucracy, educational issues will receive the top-level priority they deserve. For the first time, there will be a Cabinet-level leader in education, someone with the status and the resources to stir national discussion of critical education concerns.


Second, it will make Federal education programs more accountable. For the first time there will be a single Cabinet Secretary, responsible full-time for the effective conduct of Federal education programs.


Third, it will streamline administration of aid-to-education programs. Separating education programs from HEW will eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, cut red tape, and promote better service for local school systems. For the first time there will be a direct, unobstructed relationship between those who administer aid-to-education programs and those who actually provide education in our country.


Fourth, a Department of Education will save tax dollars. By eliminating bureaucratic layers, the reorganization will permit direct, substantial personnel reductions. By enhancing top-level management attention to education programs, it will earn improved educational services at less cost.


Fifth, it will make Federal education programs more responsive. Placing education in a highly visible department of its own gives the American people a much clearer perspective on what the Federal Government is doing in education and who is responsible for these activities. It allows people to better decide what the Government should and should not be doing in education.


Sixth, a Department of Education will ensure that local communities retain control of their schools and education programs. That is essential if our schools are to serve their students properly, and the Department of Education will, therefore, not permit the Federal Government to begin making decisions on education policy that are best made at the local level.


The Department of Education bill will permit improved administration of the Government's health and human service programs, whose functions are closely related. It will allow the Government to focus greater attention to the needs of those Americans who need it most—the poor, the disabled, and the elderly.


Today's signing fulfills a longstanding personal commitment on my part. My first public office was as a county school board member. As a State senator and Governor I devoted much of my time to education issues. I remain convinced that education is one of the noblest enterprises a person or a society can undertake.


I would like to thank the leadership of both houses of Congress for bringing this historic measure to final passage. I would like to pay particular tribute to the leadership role of Chairman Jack Brooks, Senator Abe Ribicoff, Senator Chuck Percy, and Congressman Frank Horton. Your relentless dedication to this legislation has earned you the gratitude of every citizen.


I would like also to salute the active participation in this legislative struggle by a strong coalition of groups devoted to educational quality and equal educational opportunity. You refused to believe that education is a part-time responsibility, for the Federal Government or for yourselves.

bu22
bu22

@MaureenDowney Wow.  Jimmy totally wrong on every single point.  But I guess that was par for the course.   While a wonderful man, he is perhaps the worst president since before the Civil War.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Moreover, I want this reading audience to consider the mess that a business mind (Trump's) has done to this nation in three short weeks.

I do not believe that the business mind should control every institution in our government, from the presidency to the local schoolhouse.

The business mind needs to stay in business and get out of the business of running America's public schools which are service, not profit, oriented.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@time for reform


Who do you think you're kidding?


Ever since Republican Ronald Reagan's and the business mind's and the free-market invisible hand's "A Nation at Risk," education has gotten so terrible that the black middle class flees.  Drugs, crime, failing schools and fatherless households have long since become the norm.

time for reform
time for reform

@EdJohnson 

Democrat Barack Obama was president 2009 to just a few days ago.

In November, voters delivered their assessment.

time for reform
time for reform

@MaryElizabethSings 

Who do you think you're kidding? 

Democrats have run the inner city for decades and made things so terrible that the black middle class flees. Drugs, crime, failing schools and fatherless households have long since become the norm.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

No, the U. S. Department of Education, itself, should NOT be cut from a President's cabinet.  We cannot change the structure of our nation's government just because one ignorant president and his choice for the U. S. Secy. of Education will create chaos in America and chaos in our public schools.


We must think long-ranged and get these ideologues with cliched minds out of office.


Vote Democratic, readers, every chance you get.  Wake up.  In 3 weeks Trump has created more chaos in our nation and world like no other president before him has done, in this short period of time.  

Gandolph
Gandolph

@MaryElizabethSings Jimmy Carter created it (both Education and Energy), Ronald Reagan wanted to eliminate it (both), inner cities school systems abuse it (Education), teachers unions fight for it (Education), politicians and bureaucrat empire builders love it (both), enormous amounts of money is wasted on it (both) and yet the United States is still ranked 18th in the world on education of its citizens. Somehow we must do better.

Gandolph
Gandolph

@MaryElizabethSings Vote Democrat???  Every failing inner city school and government has been run by Democrats for the last 50+ years.  Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of what??

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The problems in inner city schools are societal in nature. The basic problem in society in America is that America has become mercenary.

BRV
BRV

Oy. Carter DID NOT create DoE. It was established as a cabinet level department in 1867 and was subsequently demoted to office-level in 1868. It was restored to cabinet-level status as part of the Department of Health, EDUCATION and Welfare in 1953 by noted socialist Dwight Eisenhower. Carter just separated it from HEW. That concludes today's lesson for the hopelessly uninformed.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

No, I am not "jesting" in the slightest. Look at the chaos Trump has created in 3 weeks and the chaos the libertarian Republicans' stealthy agenda has created for public education for the past 25 years.

Vote Democtatic, readers, if you prefer reason to chaos.

Indianscout17
Indianscout17

@Gandolph @MaryElizabethSings I definitely prefer Reason to Chaos...and there's nothing wrong with Teachers Unions. Public schools in South Georgia are getting by on a pittance thanks to the Republican lawmakers in this state.


Gandolph, why don't you return from Middle Earth, turn off Fox and Sean Hannity, and live a while in the real world for a little while. 

bu22
bu22

@MaryElizabethSings In other words, vote Democratic to ensure that no major change happens in schools and those in the inner cities remained trapped in hopeless situations with limited chance of escape.  Turn the whole country into Obama's Chicago where murder goes through the roof and Emmanuel's hand picked school CEO makes off with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@MaryElizabethSings I believe the liberal DEMS and their best friends(the liberal media) have created mayhem and not allowed a smooth transition of POTUS Trump. We do not know how successful he could be due to the media scrutinizing and blocking his every action and words. Make this country as safe as possible, stop ILLEGAL immigration at the border, help businesses create new DECENT paying jobs and help make Health Care affordable to all! Give him a chance at those tasks folks!

TomGaff
TomGaff

@MaryElizabethSings I betcha Democratic mayors are in every large city that have crime and inner city failing schools? Atlanta was a fine example a couple years ago. More were failing than passing honestly?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@TomGaff @MaryElizabethSings


He's gotten his chance, just like every other president, elected.  You simply do not like how he is blowing his chance.  You prefer to blame Trump's ineptness on the "liberal Democrats."  (cliched thinking, btw).

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@MaryElizabethSings @TomGaff 21 days and that is what you call his chance. and you consider yourself an educated voice on the blog. Read what you are posting MES, it hardly appears nothing more than the cliched liberal comments blame the GOP for all that is wrong with the world and turn a blind eye to any responsibility that dems and their policies have in the failure of our inner cities.

bu22
bu22

@MaryElizabethSings @TomGaff Then why do you keep reciting it?  Sometimes you make sense.  Other times, you are just spouting off talking points.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The Democratic Party believes in public "government" institutions, including traditional public education, but the Republican Party does not. That is why I keep advising citizens to vote Democratic.

I believe in building and improving our governmental institutions, not in tearing them down.

Carterev
Carterev

Why not charter "Schools of Ignorance" for those who insist on attending such an institution?  The congressman, with his perverse reasoning skills, could be the first chancellor.  Fair warning.  Win-Win.

day off
day off

The future for American education will come when tuition vouchers free parents to place their children in the schools which THEY believe make the most sense.

Let innovation blossom. An open marketplace will do the rest.

Indianscout17
Indianscout17

@day off Let's see...I guess Walton will have a student population of around 45,000 under your plan, with another 30,000 opting for the government to pay their 25,000 dollar tuitions at Westminster. 



time for reform
time for reform

@Indianscout17 

Walton would be free to expand and serve all who meet its standards. Would-be Westminster parents would get the standard voucher amount, to take into consideration when making their final decision.

Anyway, they'd be free to apply to any school they feel they can afford.

Christie_S
Christie_S

@time for reform @Indianscout17 In theory, allowing vouchers has a decent premise. Allow parents to enroll their children in higher performing schools.


In actuality, I believe that many students would not be able to take advantage of the "go where you like" policy because of transportation issues. This basic lack of transportation will VASTLY affect the low-income families that school choice/voucher policies are purportedly aimed at to help.

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

I do believe there is a role for a Federal DOE.

1. The state DOE serves to interpret and implement federal education law. We have federal education laws, such as IDEA, and they need administration, clarification, etc.

2. We are now a transient society - people move from state to state fairly regularly, and when kids move, there are tremendous gaps in their learning. Also, we must remain globally competitive, which is hard when there is no common standard of basic competency. Perhaps Common Core is not the answer. I don't dislike it, but can see how and why some do. I do believe basic grade or even age band level milestones that are consistent from state to state are important for continuity.

So, maintain a limited federal DOE is my stance.

bu22
bu22

@CharterStarter_Too Common Core is not a federal program.  A number of governors, primarily Republican, banded together to create it.  It is voluntary for the states.  DOE has nothing to do with administering it.