Right-Sizing The Department Of Education

This is a second in a series of opinion articles dealing with the necessity of reducing the size and cost of a bloated federal bureaucracy that has demonstrated its ineffectiveness and its inefficiency. These opinion articles are adapted from an original position paper, America’s Path to Prosperity, authored by the American Issues Policy Group.

  “Congress established the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on May 4, 1980, in the Department of Education Organization Act (Public Law 96-88 of October 1979). Under this law, the Department of Education’s 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.”[i]

The Department of Education is promoting a program that dumbs-down education for the majority. Dr. Jim Milgram, Stanford University, was the only professional mathematician and expert on content on the review committee.  He has a background in writing standards and evaluating international standards for leading countries. His review of Common Core standards resulted in his following conclusion:

“Besides the issue mentioned above, Core Standards in Mathematics have very low expectations. When we compare the expectations in Core Standards with international expectations at the high school level we find, besides the slow pacing, that Core Standards only cover Algebra I, much but not all of the expected contents of Geometry, and about half of the expectations in Algebra II. Also, there is no discussion at all of topics more advanced than these . . .

“The Core Mathematics Standards are written to reflect very low expectations. More exactly, the explicitly stated objective is to prepare students not to have to take remedial mathematics courses at a typical community college. They do not even cover all the topics that are required for admission to any of the state universities around the country . . .

“Realistically, the most likely outcome of the Core Mathematics geometry standards is the complete suppression of the key topics in Euclidean geometry including proofs and deductive reasoning  . . .”

Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform, 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality, University of Arkansas, has extensive experience in development of K-12 standards in Massachusetts, Texas and Common Core. Her comments on Common Core included:

“I was the only English language standards person on the [review] committee . . .

“The standards which I have analyzed in detail many times over, do not signify readiness or authentic college level work, at best they point to readiness for a high school diploma . . . Professor Milgram says the same thing about the mathematics standards. We’re talking about the Common Core’s standards. Neither of them make us competitive with other countries that have high expectations for their high school students . . .

“Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for English language arts and reading do not aim for a level of achievement that signifies readiness for authentic college-level work. They point to no more than readiness for a high school diploma (and possibly not even that, depending on where the cut score on tests based on these standards is set). Despite claims to the contrary, they are not internationally benchmarked.”

However, it turns out that not only is the Department of Education (and the Obama administration) dumbing-down education but also it is violating federal law.  How does promotion of Common Core violate existing law?

The General Education Provisions Act (GEPA 20 United States Code § 1232a), Disabilities Education Organization Act (DEOA 20 United States Code § 3403b) and Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA 20 United States Code § 7907a, b) essentially state the same restrictions:

  1. GEPA: No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.
  2. DEOA: No officer or employee of the Federal Government is authorized to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this statute.
  3. ESEA: Notwithstanding any other prohibition of Federal law, no funds provided to the Department under this statute may be used by the Department to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in an elementary school or secondary school.

Further, 20 United States Code § 3401, Finding # 4 – Congress clearly stated that, “In our Federal system, the primary public responsibility for education is reserved respectively to the States and the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States.” 

Today, the Department of Education has consistently violated federal law in implementing Common Core. It has taken control of schools and curriculum away from parents and teachers in establishing a central, federal school curriculum that has degraded school standards.

The Department of Education administers a budget of $67.1 billion in discretionary appropriations and operates programs that touch every level of education, to include Pell grant funding. Mandatory funding equals $106 billion in 2014, for a combined cost of $177.2 billion.[ii] There are just under 5,000 Department of Education employees.

Conclusion.   The Constitution does not provide for a federal role in education. Education is local. Education curriculum, methods of teaching and education culture belong in the hands of local parents, teachers and administrators, These responsibilities rightfully and constitutionally belong to the states. For these reasons, the Department of Education should be eliminated.

Recommendation.

  • Contract with a major private sector consulting firm to plan and eliminate the Department of Education within one year, to include a 100% reduction in force within the same year.
  • Move residual Department of Education functions to the respective states.
  • The major private sector consulting firm is to identify all Department of Education regulations for elimination, either by the executive or legislative branch.

Ten year estimated savings:  $1,523.5 trillion[iii]

________________________________________________
[i]U.S. Department of Education,

www.ed.gov/overiew/mission/mission.html

[ii] U.S. Department of Education, “Fiscal Year 2014 Budget,” www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget14/summary/14summary.pdf

[iii] Department of Education savings based on 2015 budget of $177.2 with a 3% annual increase through 2024, resulting in a total of $2,031.4 trillion, of which 75%  or $1,523.5 is projected savings.

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