Department of Education, Please Go Away

This week I will be looking at the Department of Education. Started at the end of the Carter administration to appease the National Education Association, The Department of Education has the third largest budgets of any Department, but with the fewest employees. Fun fact time! Guess how many times the word “education” is used in the constitution? That’s right! Zero. The founders knew all too well that education should be controlled by the state and local communities. That makes the Department of Education unconstitutional. But who really cares about constitutionality at this point right? Let’s look at what it does, what it is supposed to do and if it works.

When Congress created the Department in 1979, it declared these purposes:

  1. to strengthen the Federal commitment to ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;
  2. to supplement and complement the efforts of States, the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States, the private sector, public and private educational institutions, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community-based organizations, parents, and students to improve the quality of education;
  3. to encourage the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs;
  4. to promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education through federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information;
  5. to improve the coordination of Federal education programs;
  6. to improve the management and efficiency of Federal education activities, especially with respect to the process, procedures, and administrative structures for the dispersal of Federal funds, as well as the reduction of unnecessary and duplicative burdens and constraints, including unnecessary paperwork, on the recipients of Federal funds; and
  7. to increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress and the public. (Section 102, Public Law 96-88)

Maybe a little government to English translation is in order.

  1. To strengthen Federal commitment = To take power away from the states into federal hands
  2. To supplement and complement = To pay for with someone else’s money
  3. To encourage = To force
  4. To promote improvements = To mandate government approved programs
  5. To improve the coordination = To consolidate power
  6. To improve the management and efficiency = oxymoron
  7. To increase the accountability = To be accountable to no one

I imagine that the real goal of the Department of Education is to improve the educational systems and outcomes of students. Cato-tot-cost-scores-Coulson-Sept-2012-smLet’s take a look to see if they are actually doing that. In 1979 the Department of Education’s budget was about $14 billion, in 2014 they spent about $67 billion. Was there a drastic improvement in educational outcomes as a result of this explosion of spending? No. There was literally no improvement at all. When you look at the track record of things like no child left behind and common core, you have to ask why are we still doing this?

Why doesn’t all this money help provide a better education? The answer is simply that when it comes to education, like everything else, one size does not fit all. The people best suited to develop educational strategies are the people who are actually teaching kids. The more local a program is to the kids, the better it will do. The farther away from your kids the decision making gets, the worse they will do. Kids in Providence, RI might have different needs than kids in Honolulu, HI. The very nature of the Federal Government forces it to treat them exactly the same.

If you use the standards they set for themselves, I would not be able to see how anyone could argue that This department has been anything but an abject failure. Of the 7 objectives above, the ones that are not redundant or useless would be worse for education had they been more successful. But as with all government projects, failure only gets more money. Our money, borrowed from our great-grandchildren.

If you want to fix education in this country, the first step should be eliminating the Department of Education. Make it possible for parents to pick which school their kids attend. Have schools compete for the best outcomes. Let principals decide what educational materials and programs to use. May the best school win. Winning, in this case, means that the students have learned something. If something works, other schools can implement the strategy. Along with eliminating the Department of Education, we would need to make all public unions, especially the teachers union, illegal. I cannot think of another organization revolving around children that has children lower on their list of priorities than teachers unions. But public unions are a blog for another time. School choice is not a pipe dream, it is already happening in the form of charter schools. It just needs to happen more.

For the snarky summation of the Department of Education:

What it does: spends gobs of money with no discernable results

What it’s supposed to do: spend gobs of money with no discernable results, so it can claim the need to spend more next year.

Is it working: yes, and for that reason it must go.

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12 thoughts on “Department of Education, Please Go Away

  1. Matt Wilson, we spend a lot of money on education here in the U.S.A., with no good results. Instead of the child following the dollar, the dollar should follow the child. What are your thoughts on home schooling or private school?

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  2. Matt Wilson, I know that there is a time and place to encourage kids to take an active interest in things that are political, however, what is the right age for that in your opinion? Personally, I think it is a good idea to have them develop an interest early on in their lives.

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    • there is such a thing as too early. in the early years, it’s probably better to just be a good example. it’s not until middle school or early high school that they can even really understand some of the economic and political philosophies that they need to know. kids gravitate towards socialism early because that is the system that most looks like their family life. the old saying is true that if you are young and not a liberal, you have no heart, but if you are old and still liberal, you have no brain. once they get out in the world they find out that everything is not like their family unit

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  3. Matt Wilson, I am largely inclined to agree with you. My only real area of disagreement is that if you happen to have kids who hear about political things on the news, if they are actively paying attention, you might have these kids who question why these details were not explained to them by parents rather than only hearing about it on TV. Another thing that many parents do, well-intentioned as it may be, is tell kids that they will understand certain things when they get older. To be fair, some things will make sense for kids as they get older. However, one thing that is absurd to me about a statement like “You’ll understand when you’re older” is because it is presumptuous in some regards. Here is an example where such a line might work or it might not: The matter of parents wanting to spare their kids’ feelings regarding hearing about disturbing information. In the scenario where it would work, kids might hear that and ultimately decide that it is better to wait and be able to develop some perspective about life. Now to address the part where it will not work. Some kids may be told that they would understand certain things when they are older and it could lead to an argument. Not all kids are the same in this regard, nor are all parents the same in this regard.

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    • for sure. I always tried to answer questions directly. I never tried to shield them from bad news. mine are between 15 and 22 now. I noticed that before around 7th grade or so, they couldn’t care less about the news. it really wasn’t until they had social studies in school that any of this stuff was on their radar at all

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      • You will get no argument from me there. There may be some kids who assume that when their parents say that the kids will understand thing when they get older, that they will very likely understand these things later on. However, for the most part, any person who uses that particular line otherwise has a presumptuous perspective in my opinion.

        When it comes to disclosing information to children that many parents would think is not really the business of the children at their current stage, what should be done if a child challenges said claim? Tell all of the details directly or disclose only what the parent believes to be relevant? No parents are perfect, however, it is ignorant to assume that because a child is a certain age, regardless of the age, that they may not understand certain things.

        For me, when I was a kid, the only thing that hearing the statement “You’ll understand when you’re older” caused me to be was argumentative. Generally speaking, “you’ll understand when you’re older sounds like a cop-out to me.

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  4. Matt Wilson, I am inclined to believe that our educational institutions (including universities) have become indoctrination centers. People are told what to think, not encouraged to think for themselves. What is it with the youth who fall prey to Leftist propaganda? Are you familiar with Dinesh D’Souza to any degree? Personally, I think that the man has a wealth of knowledge that college students can benefit from. Here is a video for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goKXTXwT_4g Dinesh D’Souza makes an exceptionally well thought-out presentation. I would not want to be arguing political matters with him and risk being on the losing end.

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    • I’m pretty familiar with dinesh. he makes a lot of valid points when it comes to the modern left. I won’t have a chance to watch the link you provided for a while, but will try to get to it later

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  5. Matt Wilson, if you have broadband internet or an unlimited data plan on your phone, watch the video whenever. I enjoyed the presentation. During the whole presentation, Dinesh D’Souza never shouted any person down when they challenged him.

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