Whether I’m debating the quality of government schools or the funding of government schools, I routinely share this chart from the late Andrew Coulson.
There are two obvious takeaways from this data.
- Taxpayers have been shelling out ever-larger amounts of money.
- All that money has produced no improvement in student test scores.
Those two takeaways should lead any rational person to conclude that dramatic changes are needed.
Probably the biggest change is school choice. And the good news is that more and more states are moving in the right direction on this issue.
But there’s another potential big change. As illustrated by this tweet (and this story), a former Secretary of the Department of Education thinks it is time to abolish her former bureaucracy.
Unfortunately, we are not seeing any progress on this goal. The bureaucracy’s budget grew dramatically under Trump. And it’s getting even more bloated under Biden.
But maybe there’s hope. Congressman Tom Massie, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, has legislation to get the federal government out of education. Here’s some of his office’s press release on the topic.
Representative Thomas Massie…has introduced H.R. 899, a bill to abolish the federal Department of Education. The bill, which is one sentence long, states, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2022.” …said Massie. “States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students. Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school.” The Department of Education began operating in 1980. On September 24, 1981, in his Address to the Nation on the Program for Economic Recovery, President Ronald Reagan said, “…we propose to dismantle two Cabinet Departments, Energy and Education. …There’s only one way to shrink the size and cost of big government, and that is by eliminating agencies that are not needed and are getting in the way of a solution. …education is the principal responsibility of local school systems, teachers, parents, citizen boards, and State governments. By eliminating the Department of Education less than 2 years after it was created, we cannot only reduce the budget but ensure that local needs and preferences, rather than the wishes of Washington, determine the education of our children.”
In a column for the Foundation for Economic Education, Patrick Carroll applauds Congressman Massie, along with his cosponsors who have embraced genuine reform.
Though it may be tempting to think Massie and his supporters just don’t care about education, this is certainly not the case. If anything, they are pushing to end the federal Department of Education precisely because they care about educational outcomes. In their view, the Department is at best not helping and, at worst, may actually be part of the problem. …Massie is echoing sentiments expressed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, who advocated dismantling the Department of Education even though it had just begun operating in 1980. …Education needs vary from student to student, so educational decisions need to be made as close to the individual student as possible. Federal organizations simply can’t account for the diverse array of educational contexts, which means their one-size-fits-all findings and recommendations will be poorly suited for many classrooms.
From the moment it was created by Jimmy Carter, the Department of Education has failed to generate any positive outcome.
By that metric, it has something in common with the Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and almost every bureaucracy in Washington.
P.S. As one might expect, Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Common Core were both expensive failures.
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