Rep. Massie (KY) introduced a bill last month to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. If you are like me, you probably don’t care for reading legislative bills. They tend to confusingly convoluted and are sometimes hard to figure out what the bill would do. Not this one. I encourage you to read this one. Read it in its entirety——all ten words of it. Brevity can be good. HR 899.
Most of us have heard the saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” This saying applies well to this bill. For several years now, I have heard people say the U.S. Department of Education should be shut down. I have heard it more and more in the last couple of years, even from people I wouldn’t expect to hear it from. Usually when I hear it, there is seldom a well thought out plan for shutting it down.
Rep. Massie is featured in this video being interviewed by Mark Prasek.
In the video, Rep. Massie raised the issue of what to do with the functions of the U.S. Department of Education. He puts the possibilities into three categories and does indicate a preference for the third one.
First. Take the programs and move them to different departments. This would just reassign responsibility for every thing the Department does to other departments. This is what I have cautioned people about when I hear them say the Department should be shut down but don’t provide a plan. To me, this is like cutting off the Hydra’s head only to have more grow in different locations. Scattering the functions of the Department around will make it more difficult to keep track of the federal government’s involvement in education. This is not a good option.
Second. Take all of the federal funds for education and block grant it back to the states and let the states manage the money. There has been a bill to do this but it put unacceptable conditions on states receiving the block grants. Block grants with no conditions could be acceptable.
Third. Get the federal government out of education altogether. Instead of running money through Washington, D.C., money should be kept in the states.
I am for local control, especially for education, but closing the Department of Education in this manner will not achieve local control. There are no provisions in this bill for undoing legislation the feds will still have to keep in place. So without such provisions, we would end up with the first option. It seems to me legislation needs to be passed that will repeal or sunset various legislative bills. Think—legislation like ESEA in its current form ESSA.
Terminating the Department, if done well, could be a step in the right direction. There are still a lot of things to consider. How far should things go in getting the federal government out of education? What about the Regional Educational Laboratory Program? How about the National Science Foundation (NSF)? NSF funded the development of a number of reform math programs. How about NAEP? I hear from some that the NAEP is a good thing but they question NAEP’s possible move towards assessing non-cognitive factors. Where do you draw the line?