Abolishing the Department of Education is the Right Thing to Do

Eliminating the Department of Education used to be a standard Republican talking point. In 1980, Ronald Reagan ran on abolishing the federal department soon after Jimmy Carter created it. The 1996 GOP platform read, “the Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning.”

The Republican Party has since lost its way. George W. Bush championed the No Child Left Behind law—also known as the No Federal Bureaucrat Left Behind law—which has massively expanded the federal government’s role in education. With a few notable exceptions such as Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, modern day Republicans have backed away from gutting the Department of Education. It has become more common for Republicans to promise that they will eliminate “waste, fraud and abuse” in government programs without giving any specifics.

Republicans need to return to their small government roots. We just can’t solve our budget problems and restore liberty by simply tinkering around the edges. Instead of pledging to “fix” unconstitutional government programs—we need more elected representatives willing to scrap entire departments. Today’s GOP should channel Mr. Conservative himself Barry Goldwater who declared that “I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient…my aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.”

The Department of Education deserves to be on the chopping block. Our children’s education is too important to be left up to a federal centralized bureaucracy. Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education as a political payoff to the teachers’ unions for their 1976 endorsement. We should judge all governmental agencies by their results rather than their intentions. Like virtually every federal department, the Department of Education has only made things worse. Student educational outcomes have worsened since the creation of the Department of Education.

The Department of Education is blatantly unconstitutional, like so much that the federal government does. The truth is that the federal government only has about thirty enumerated powers delegated to it in the Constitution. Education is not specifically listed in the document, which means that the authority over education should be left up to the states and the people. We cannot afford to waste anymore taxpayer dollars on failed national schemes.

Federal agencies always cost more than initially predicted. The Department of Education’s 2011 budget is nearly six times greater than its original budget. It has increased from $13.1 billion (in 2007 dollars) in 1980 to $77.8 billion in 2011. The federal government throwing more money at education has done virtually nothing to improve educational outcomes. Student test scores in math, reading and science have remained flat or declined over the past four decades. The chart below from the Cato Institute shows how increased federal spending has not had a positive effect on educational achievement:

The federal government meddling in education has been a failure to say the least. A group of federal bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. cannot possibly design a curriculum that meets the unique needs of millions of school children across the nation. We need to restore control over education to the local level where teachers and parents are put back in charge. Make no mistake; eliminating the Department of Education is a pro-education position.

More of today’s Republicans need to grow spines and renew the call to abolish the Department of Education. It’s unconstitutional, a waste of taxpayer dollars and has been detrimental to the quality of education in America.