Sunday, February 7, 2010

US Department Of Education - Get Rid Of It

The US Department of Education actually has it roots in 1867, when the federal government first became involved in public education, which is actually a state function. Over the years, there has been significant creep as the federal government has continued to enact more regulations and involvement in public schools. Major expansion of federal involvement occurred during the 60's and 70's as part of Johnson's Great Society legislation and unionization of public education until 1980, when the Department of Education finally became a separate cabinet office as pay back to the Teacher Unions that support Democrat Socialists.

In 2009, the budget for the Department of Education, under Obama, grew to $46.7 Billion. For the fiscal year 2011, President Obama is seeking another $4.5 Billion in requesting $50.7 Billion dollars, or roughly a 10% increase, when most companies in the private sector have reduced expenses to cut costs. This amount represents about 10.5% of the total spent on elementary and secondary education since the states fund about 89.5% of all spending on public education. The total spent for all levels of education in the United States in 2009-10, was a a staggering $1.1 Trillion, the highest expenditure in the world. While US public colleges and universities are among the best in the world; though they do push left wing ideology, elementary and secondary education in the United States generally produces poor test scores compared to many other nations. To be clear, however, whatever the reasons, or the excuses for poor results in our public schools, money is not the issue since the US spends far more on education that nearly all other nations in the world.

So what is the problem? Let's start with the unionization of education. Teacher Unions have prevented real accountability and made it nearly impossible to fire a poor teacher. Unions oppose merit pay because they insist that all teachers be paid on the same basis. Unions oppose school choice and vouchers that would allow parents with kids in failing schools to escape those schools. However, to be fair, the degradation of our culture, often advanced by Democrat Socialists, has played a big part in the poor results achieved in our public schools. The inability to enforce discipline, as a result of legal challenges, has turned many schools into a war zone. The prevalence of single parent families, either as a result of divorce, or because of children born out of wedlock often leads to less supervision in the home, which is detrimental to learning. At the other end of the spectrum, middle class and wealthy parents have indulged their children often making few demands on them. And then, during the last 20 years, we have seen the emergence of the video generation. Today, children must be entertained in the classroom and that rarely comes from reading books. In fact, it is probable that for the first time in American history current generations are not as well educated as their baby boomer parents and grandparents that did not have many of the distractions that exist today and often had to work for what they have.

In any case, why do we have a federal Department of Education? There is no mention in the US Constitution related to Education except to say that anything not mentioned in the Constitution is expressly delegated to the states. In the last hundred years, the General Welfare clause of the Constitution has been used to justify federal intrusion into many areas that are state functions and Education is one of them. The United States is bankrupt. Obama has requested $3.8 Trillion in 2011, which will result in a $1.6 Trillion deficit and more borrowing from the Chinese. The Department of Education is a duplication of a state function that is absolutely unnecessary. The Department itself is a costly bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, that serves no purpose and is a waste of money.

If the federal government would like to assist the states with Education, the Congress can simply apply a formula based, per pupil allocation and give the money directly to the states with the specific proviso that it must be used for Education. The states are fully capable of determining how best to spend such monies based on their particular, needs, goals and objectives. In doing so, thousands of federal employees, working at the Department of Education can be eliminated saving billions of dollars each year. If Obama is serious about cutting the deficit, which is doubtful, the Department of Education is the place to start.

Will it happen? Certainly not as long as Obama and the Democrat Socialists control Congress because they are owned lock, stock and barrel by the Public Employee and Teacher Unions that pushed for federal involvement in the first place. The Unions just love all the pork that comes their way from the Department of Education. This is money that never touches kids in any way. And, the waste is huge. Years ago, when I worked in Public Education, I managed a Reading and Language Development Program in a Junior High School with 2,600 kids in Los Angeles that received several hundred thousand dollars in federal money each year.

Every May, I used to bring teachers into the library to spend all the monies we were allocated because it was use it or lose it.
So, we got out the catalogues and just started ordering anything and everything. And, then, when we actually achieved higher reading scores than ever before by teaching phonics and holding teachers accountable, I was told by the Vice Principal of the School that we had to be very careful because if the scores went above the 50th percentile, we would lose our federal money and that many jobs would be lost.

At the time, I was 29 years old and very idealistic. I responded; but if the kids achieved the 50th percentile that would mean that they could read to which I was told by the Vice Principal that "I needed to see the big picture". I was also forced to dumb down my personal objectives by the Teacher Union because they did not want teachers held to higher standards. Very shortly after this episode with the Vice Principal, I left public education out of complete dissolusionment and disgust and got my first job in business. This also coincided with the first time I voted for my hero Ronald Reagan in 1980 and never voted for a Democrat Socialist again.

We have to end the fiscal insanity and mismanagement in Washington. The Department of Education is a good place to start to get our house in order and take back power from the federal government. The Department of Education is completely redundant. Education is clearly a state function and as such we must push back federal government intrusion. I have personally seen the federal Education bureaucracy and all the pork barrel spending that is of no benefit to kids. In order to take back our country, we must elect Conservatives in 2010 and 2012 committed to sound fiscal management, a balanced budget, limited government, term limits, a strong national defense, the sanctity of life and family values. We can do it. We must do it.

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