Public Policy: Department of Education

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It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I am not a fan of the federal Department of Education.  Today’s blog is going to focus on this topic.  Today’s posting will not be long but will cover the main reasons why it should not exists including prominent politicians, on both sides of the aisle, who never wanted it created.

First things first, the Department of Education, at the federal level, is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL department.  I challenge anyone to show me where in the U.S. Constitution the federal government has any authority over schools or anything related to education.  If someone brings up the general welfare clause in Congress’s taxation power in Article I, Section 8, Clause 1, I will slap you with a cold dead fish!  Read what the founding fathers meant by general welfare, then get back to me.  You will find that this is not a use of that clause. 

James Madison said quite clearly in the Federalist Papers that the federal government has clearly define powers and that the states have all other ones not granted to the federal government or denied to the states.  And that was BEFORE the creation of the Bill of Rights and the 10th Amendment, that states:

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.

The fact that we think we can solve our local educational problems with a big single policy from Washington is idiotic and ignorant.  Who is better at solving the problems in the schools?  A bureaucrat in Washington or a parent on the PTA, a teacher in the classroom, and an administrator in the hallway.  Case closed; end of discussion.  Education has always been a local issue and anyone who willingly gives up that power to the feds deserves to be controlled by them and has no right to complain when they set standards that no school can reach.

My second point is that the creation of the federal department of education was never popular with any politician until after it was created.  Check out these quotes which can be found in Glenn Beck’s Broke on pages 303-305, with end notes about their sources in the appendix on page 398.

This is a back-room deal, born out of squalid politics.  Everything we had thought we would not see happening in education is happening here. – Daniel Moynihan (D-NY)

No matter what anyone says, the Department of Education will not just write checks to local school boards.  They will meddle in everything.  I do not want that. – Pat Schroeder (D-CO)

[A] national department of education may actually impeded the innovation of local programs as it attempts to establish uniformity throughout the Nation. – Joseph Early (D-MA)

The supporters of a separate department [of education] speak vaguely of the need for a federal policy on Education.  We believe that they misunderstand the nature of American education, which is characterized by diversity. – New York Times

The two-hundred-year-old absence of a Department of Education is not the result of simple failure during all that time. On the contrary, it derives from the conviction that we do not want the kind of educational system that such arrangements produce. – Richard Lyman, President of Stanford University

I don’t know of any educator who has not complained, at least once, about the policies of No Child Left Behind; proof that bad federal policy about local education problems come from both sides of the aisle.  How important is the department?  During the government shutdown of 1995, 89% of the department’s employees were sent home as nonessential (Beck 304).   

Parents, or future parents, do you want a person in Washington taking your money, in tax dollars, and giving it to another school halfway across the country?  Or would you rather have that extra money to help support your local schools?  Teachers, would you like to be told by a bureaucrat in Washington what methods to use to teach and assess your students?  Or would you rather work within your own state, and local community to make sure your specific students with specific needs, get exactly what they need out of their education?  Administrators, do you really want to fill out more paper work so you can get a piddly amount of money from the feds that comes with so many strings attached that you have to hired more bureaucrats in the school instead of teachers? 

The choice is clear.  It is time to get the federal government out of the business of education, on all levels, K12 and college.  Its an unconstitutional power grab that they have successfully been pulling at for the last 30 years.  We could save ourselves billions of dollars every year from its budget and its no nothing, do nothing bureaucratic structure.  To the federal government I say this, “Get the hell out of my classroom and let me do my job.”

Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Class dismissed.


2 thoughts on “Public Policy: Department of Education

  1. “Where in the U.S. Constitution the federal government has any authority over schools or anything related to education.”

    The authority comes from the interpretation of the spending power in Article 1, Sec 8. Education policy is a clear example of the effect South Dakota v. Dole has had on federal power. According to Alfred A. Lindseth, “Since federal grants to the states may be conditioned upon the state's adoption of certain legal and regulatory structures, the federal government has been able to exercise substantial authority over K–12 education policy.” This takes us back to our discussion of interpretation, South Dakota v. Dole dictates the law and therefore education policy is constitutional.

    I do agree with you that education was clearly intended to be a state power and is looked at by the Court in this way. And all states do establish their schools through their state constitutions. NCLB has defiantly been too much interference. But I do see a use in some type of national standards of achievement in order to create a level of uniformity in what our students our learning and at what level of achievement. Decision making, problem solving, assessment tools, etc. can and should be in the hands of the people on the ground involved directly with the children they teach. You can have both, but with many states practically bankrupt, I don't see a big change in approach any time soon. Nor do I think the Court will feel the need to overturn decades of case law regarding spending power.

  2. Again you, and the Supreme Court, are using a faulty view of the General Welfare clause. This is why I don't always trust the Supreme Court either because as human they can make mistakes in their interpretation of the Constitution and create these meaning without any legal basis.

    The Spending Clause says nothing about taking from Illinois to give to Nevada. It is about spending money on the essential jobs of government, regulating speed limits, drinking ages, and seat belt laws are not an essential job of the federal government. Providing education is not an essential or constitutional job of the feds. As I have said before the states and the people have been feed from the breast of federal redistributing our hard earned money for too long. We need less federal and general government control over our lives and more personal responsibility.

    Why do we need to have national uniformity? Let the states try their own solutions to their own problems. If it works others will adapt it.

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