Friday, April 8, 2011
LET THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DEPART!
Education is critical in a complex modern society. Education is the process by which we impart moral values to our children, make them part of our particular culture, develop their ability to think, and give them specific kinds of information that they will need to be productive adults, good citizens, and civilized human beings.
Today there is great concern about the quality of American education.
But neither the importance of education nor its poor quality means that education is an important function of the federal government. In fact, education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason.
The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Certainly, they saw no role for the federal government in education.
Since the early 1900’s there were many varied legislative attempts to establish a Department of Education. However, the movement really took off with the election of Senator Abraham Ribicoff, the former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Ribicoff was assisted in his efforts by the National Education Association (NEA). The NEA began a political action committee that strongly influenced the nomination of Jimmy Carter for President. (Oh just so you know with a current budget of more than $355 million, the National Education Association spends more on campaign contributions than do ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and the AFL-CIO combined.)
A Washington Post editorial raised the fear that "by sheer bureaucratic momentum, [a department of education] would inevitably erode local and state control over public schools.'' Another Post editorial reminded us, "Education remains a primary function of the states and localities, which is surely one reason this country has not had a national ministry of education as part of its political tradition. We think it is a tradition worth holding on to.''
At the time, however, the new department was criticized by members of the president’s own party. And they were RIGHT!
“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,” argued Representative Pat Schroeder (D-CO).
Representative Joseph Early (D-MA) stated that a “national Department may actually impede the innovation of local programs as it attempts to establish uniformity throughout the Nation.”
Senator Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) condemned the new law as a straight political payoff by Carter to teacher unions for their endorsement in the 1976 presidential election. “This is a back-room deal, born out of squalid politics. Everything we had thought we would not see happening to education is happening here.”
Abolishing the Department has been a staple among Republican politicians.
When the Education Department was created in 1979, many critics warned that a secretary of education would turn into a national minister of education.
Rep. John Erlenborn (R-Ill.) wrote, "There would be interference in textbook choices, curricula, staffing, salaries, the make-up of student bodies, building designs, and all other irritants that the government has invented to harass the population. These decisions which are now made in the local school or school district will slowly but surely be transferred to Washington.''
Dissenting from the committee report that recommended establishing the department, Erlenborn and seven other Republicans wrote, "The Department of Education will end up being the Nation's super schoolboard. That is something we can all do without.''
Ronald Reagan famously pledged to abolish it in the 1980 presidential election.
In 1996, the Republican Party platform stated: “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.”
But then came President George W. Bush and No Child Left Behind, which grew the Department by 69.6 percent in just two years. YEA Dubya!
Defenders of the federal role in education insist that the department has no power to impose anything on the nation's schools. It can only study, advise, inspire, and offer supplemental funding. Of course, our folk wisdom tells us that he who pays the piper calls the tune--as federal money increases, so does federal control.
After decades of increased funding for the DOE, created just 32 years ago, its budget now ranks as the third largest of all government agencies.
The Department’s job is basically taking taxpayer money from states, filtering it through the DOE, and then sending it back to states. It does this in an inefficient manner and it has done little to boost academic achievement. It has, however, raised the salaries of its government employees.
Not including executive salaries, the average annual income of a DOE employee in 2010 was $103,000: nearly double the average annual teacher salary ($53,000 in 2009). Adding to this overblown spending, in 2009 the federal government’s Program Assessment Rating Tool—used to identify ineffective and duplicative programs—reported $359 million in earmarks in the DOE’s budget.
Furthermore, greater federal funding for education has come with increased federal red tape. This only adds to administrative burden and does nothing to help students learn. Data indicates that even though the federal government contributes only around 10 percent of the funding for education, it is responsible for 41 percent of the administrative compliance burden placed on states.
Warning....this part is very boring!
The Department of Education’s stated mission is to:
Strengthen the Federal commitment to assuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;
Supplement and complement the efforts of states, the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the states, the private sector, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community-based organizations, parents, and students to improve the quality of education;
Encourage the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs;
Promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education through Federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information;
Improve the coordination of Federal education programs;
Improve the management of Federal education activities; and
Increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress, and the public.
This part is also tedious but you need to know:
There are several organizations within the ED. They include the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Planning and Evaluation Service, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Office of Special Education Programs, and the National Research and Dissemination Centers for Career and Technical Education.
When the department of education was formed it had 450 employees and a budget of $18.1 billion. Today, its budget is $80 billion with about 5000 employees.
Oh.... I am a teacher. Today I asked several of my colleagues what the Department of Education did.....none of us could come up with an answer. Enough said?