Monday, June 6, 2011

Guest post: The Waste Named "Department of Education"

Harlingen, Texas, June 4, 2011:  You can read every word of the United States Constitution with a magnifying glass and you still will not find “education” written into its text.  From the birth of our nation onward, education was a state, local or family matter.  The federal government made a feeble attempt to centralize it with an education department in 1867, but it was quickly converted to an education office the following year.  For the next century it remained untouched until President Jimmy Carter, in an attempt to woo National Education Association votes, proposed the Department of Education in 1979.  A Democrat controlled Congress, which did not truly support the idea, passed it into law so the President would not be embarrassed.

Initially the stated purpose of the agency was to establish policy for the administration of government assistance and to enforce federal education laws.  However, the department’s stated mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” To accomplish those tasks it was first given 4,000 employees and a little more than $14 billion as a budget.  At the time the agency was formed, America ranked at the top of the world in educational quality.

Now, just a little over three decades later we can boast that we still are among the world leaders in educational spending.  Our lead ends with that assertion.  Today countries such as South Korea and Japan lead in educational accomplishment.  In ranking among the 35 most educated nations, the United States can only boast #25 in math scores, #21 in science scores and #21 in percentage of graduates.

At the same time we can see the Department of Education has grown from the smallest of governmental agencies to one that has inserted its activities across at least 39 different federal agencies with more than 760 education related programs, costing the American taxpayers  $120 billion a year.  These are not even part of its annual budget of almost $71 billion.

For more than 200 years the United States functioned very well without a Department of Education.  For purely political reasons and to improve union strength the agency was formed.  Now billions of dollars later, we are further behind the educational curve than ever.  We have an agency that has proven it can do nothing to improve education for our children and one, which most members of Congress will admit, is involved in a multitude of activities that have nothing to do with advancing education.

If we had kept education at the local level state and local government would have been more involved in every aspect of our programs.  Parents would have become more involved in reform efforts. Differences in the programs of other states and other communities would have been noted and good practices found in one locale would have been applied in another.  As the system is today distant government bureaucrats make the decisions and parental control is only superficial.  The ideas put in place by Washington D.C. grow with every passing year and most of them have done nothing to improve test scores or graduation rates.

We really need no other authority to abolish the Department of Education.  There is nothing constitutional about its existence.  Though it offers up a mantra about creating uniformity among the states, it can also be argued that very idea is harmful to advancing improvement or seeking out greater knowledge.

From the political side of the coin it can also be argued that members of Congress do not have the ability to improve the level of education in the classroom, and they should instead be spending their time dealing with problems that are legitimately within their mandate.

We should strongly urge the elimination of the Department of Education now.  If it keeps growing, as has been its trend for three decades, it will only consume more and more taxpayer dollars that produce little or no results.  Most of us believe mom and dad can spend those education dollars in a much more productive way.

Semper Fidelis
Thomas D. Segel

1 comment:

  1. This article is great. If you ever want to drive a person nuts, share your beliefs on federal government being removed from the education system. They will act as though the constitution specifically guarantees everybody's education, and that you're committing high treason by suggesting otherwise.

    It's amusing that people in general would rather tilt at windmills when these large bureaucracies fail to deliver. Then proceed to scoff at the notion of each parent being responsible for their own child's education: "Deliver what I expect of you, but don't you DARE expect me to lift a finger myself!" I'm beginning to wonder if people actually care about the well being of their children, or if they will ever recognize the conflict of interest that exists in a government run educational system.