Legislation was introduced this week to eliminate the Department of Education.
The bill (H.R. 899) was introduced in the House by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). It is one sentence long and simply says, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The bill has seven Republican so-sponsors.
Justification for the Education Bill
In a statement on the legislation, Massie said:
Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. 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.
He also tweeted, “Neither Congress nor the Pres, thru his appointees, has the const. auth. to dictate how/what our children must learn.”
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is a co-sponsor of the bill. Chaffetz said in a tweet that Washington is not needed to teach children:
I am an original co-sponsor. DC is not needed to teach our kids. Utahns can do this without the bureaucracy of DC. https://t.co/27haWpLSjf
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) February 8, 2017
About the Department of Education
The Department of Education is a cabinet level agency. Its budget in 2016 was about $79 billion which is approximately $630 for every American household. After adjusting for inflation, agency spending has increased about 67 percent since 2000.
The Department of Education employs about 4,300 people and operates 114 different subsidy programs. The average salary for FY 2016 for the 4,269 Education employees in the FedSmith database is $108,137.32.
Bill is not a Surprise
The proposal to eliminate the agency is not a surprise. The Department of Education was not a hot topic in the presidential campaign. However, Donald Trump wrote in his book Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America:
“A lot of people believe the Department of Education should just be eliminated. Get rid of it. If we don’t eliminate it completely, we certainly need to cut its power and reach.”
The president cannot eliminate the agency with an executive order or otherwise. It would take an act of Congress to do that. According to Harvard legal scholar Laurence Tribe:
“There is no constitutional obstacle to the enactment of such a law. With a Republican in the White House and a GOP-controlled House and Senate, Republicans will have their best chance yet to scrap or seriously cut back the size and budget for the agency.
Difficult Road to Eliminating the Agency
It will not be easy for Congress to eliminate the agency. While eliminating the agency would help in resolving the budget deficit, winning the votes necessary for Congress to pass this bill will not be easy.
There are arguments for and against keeping the Department of Education. The ultimate argument that may win the day is much simpler: money buys influence. The agency routinely doles out millions of dollars to each state. When it comes to seeing that federal money go away, chances are the votes to eliminate the money that flows to each state will be persuasive.
No doubt, there is turmoil in Washington as the new administration views the federal government with an eye toward “draining the swamp”. The Department of Education and its future is likely to become one of the focal points of the philosophical debate about the role of government.