Last week I wrote about a freshman member of Congress drafting a bill to abolish the EPA. Now another Representative is proposing to do the same with the Department of Education. Neither are likely to make it to the President’s desk any time soon but only because there is still a shortage of political will to do what is right.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 7, 2017
Representative Thomas Massey (R-KY) introduced the one sentence bill which reads “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
“Neither Congress nor the president, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn,” Massie said in a statement about the bill, which was significantly longer than the legislation itself.
“States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students,” he added.
The bill, co-sponsored by seven other GOP members of the House, outlines no specific plan for the department’s abolition, but came at a strange moment. On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos, a top GOP donor from Michigan, was confirmed as the department’s secretary by the Senate — with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.
It’s not really a strange moment for the bill because the the reasoning behind it and the nomination of DeVos are similar. DeVos’ emphasis on charter schools and school choice is a step toward more local decision making which involves students and parents. Abolishing the Department of Education is about the same thing—putting education back in the hands of the people closest to it. No problem with public education will be solved by Washington, nor should it be. It’s not the federal government’s job.
While the right was cheerleading for DeVos and the left was declaring that her confirmation would lead to the downfall of civilization as we know it I could only think that we’re focusing on the wrong fight. I won’t rehash the overall worthlessness of the Department of Education here. RedState’s J. Cal Davenport covers it well in a post from earlier today.
I’m not convinced. Admittedly, unlike many conservatives, I’m not excited about some indisputable benefits she is going to be to the American education system. I don’t find her qualifications especially impressive, nor do I think she possesses a magic bullet for the problems schools are experiencing.
To be honest, I don’t think anyone does — and that’s the point. In 38 years of existence, the Department of Education has had no meaningful impact on education in America. With minor exceptions, there has been no improvement in students’ test scores, while spending has more than doubled, taking into account inflation and the increase in the number of students in that time. That’s with Republican and Democratic appointees running it.
Don’t get me wrong. Anything that is a slap in the face to teachers unions is a positive thing in my book but just putting an cabinet secretary in charge of an agency full of people who mistakenly believe their jobs are critical to educating kids isn’t a very significant move forward. The real progress is going to be measured in what this administration or future ones do in Washington but rather in what they undo. The establishment of the Department of Education is one thing that needs to be undone.