“We Don’t Need no (Dept. Of) Education…”

March 3, 2023

I was Today Years Old when I learned that the Department of Education was created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. And conservatives have been trying to eliminate it ever since. The most recent attempt comes from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) who introduced a bill to abolish it by the end of 2023. His reasoning: "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 schoool."

Besides this, Massie argues that eliminating the DOE would help balance the budget. In the most recent budget, Education gets $79.6 billion, with $45 billion of that going towards K-12 programs in special education and for low-income neighborhoods. Thirty billion dollars goes towards Pell Grants to help pay for college for students who struggle financially.

Ask yourself: in the long term, what would the costs of losing that near-$80 billion be for our nation’s competitiveness?

Let’s start with what the DOE actually does. It collects and shares scientific research on schooling to improve results nationwide. It helps equalize funding to ensure that schools across the country get a fair shake, and it ensures equal access for students. It manages all this with one of the smallest workforces of any cabinet department.

For years, conservatives have been nibbling at the corners of the public education issue with their push for “school choice” and “vouchers.” Essentially what this does is drain federal resources from public schools, redirecting them to private schools or home schooling. Many of these schools have a curriculum geared towards certain beliefs. If parents want to pay for a Catholic private school, so be it; but should federal funds support a religious school? And what about parents who don’t want that – or simply can’t afford a private school? 

If public schools are neglected and their effectiveness goes down, it makes the conservative point that the DOE is useless (#selffulfillingprophecy) and essentially sets the stage for nothing but “for-profit” schooling for our kids.

Public schools get indirect subsidies via federal deductions on state and local taxes; in 2009, that totaled $42 billion. Eliminating public education would have a decimating effect on our future generations, setting up a system that’s almost feudal, where those who can afford a decent education get one, and those who don’t…well, good luck in the salt mines.

Not to mention, we’d be looking at curriculums that are wildly all over the place (admit it: we’re already dealing with a percentage of our citizenry hostile to fact-based things like science and history).

Simply put, wanting to abolish the Department of Education seems like a ploy to dumb down the citizenry, quite the opposite of what Thomas Jefferson once said: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

What are your thoughts about the schools in your community? What would you like to see more of/less of? How involved are you with your local school board or PTA? Let us know in the Community Soapbox!

Cindy Grogan is a writer, lover of history and "Star Trek" (TOS), and hardcore politics junkie. There was that one time she campaigned for Gerald Ford (yikes), but ever since, she's been devoted to Democratic and progressive policies.

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Antigrav1117 on Jun 16, 2023 11:43 AM
DOE has become less an instrument of advancing education and more a political tool. If it cannot be reoriented to remove political bias- it must be eliminated. It's too well placed to for parents to allow it to be an instrument of… See Comments
JRB18 on Oct 24, 2022 2:30 AM
Election day is two weeks away! Let's make sure we reach out to friends and family to get out the vote, critical races this year both at the national AND local levels. See Comments
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