Do we need the Department of Education?

For this post, we’re discussing the federal Department of Education, and my flat out answer is an emphatic NO. The federal Department of Education – and certainly to an extent state education bureaucracies – are great examples of government central planning that fails to improve anything, or more likely make it worse.

More than 1.9 million people subscribe to the free Hillsdale College monthly newsletter Imprimis and if you don’t subscribe you might as well click here to subscribe for free. Some of the authors may seem obscure to you, but it certainly does not mean the information is not valuable. Take for instance Charles Murray’s speech in Atlanta at an October 2011 conference on Markets, Government, and the Common Good.

Murray begins

The case for the Department of Education could rest on one or more of three legs: its constitutional appropriateness, the existence of serious problems in education that could be solved only at the federal level, and/or its track record since it came into being. Let us consider these in order.

Read the entire speech as I think you’ll find it worth your time. In short, Murray agrees with me, and I would like to read your comments below.

If you’re one who thinks the federal Department of Education has value and is properly one of the roles of the federal government, let me know why. Just know that if you come up with the “kids are the future and if we don’t have a DOE, they will suffer” excuse, that’s a completely false argument since we have local and state funding, plus local school boards and state DOEs.

This redundancy is a killer when it comes to the economy and financial strength of the United States, and there is no value.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. Lynn on January 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I vote NO for the federal Department of Education, and (I have subscribed to Imprimis for years, it’s fabulous)

    • ricbee on January 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      Me too….

  2. Dimsdale on January 21, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Oh, there’s “value”: value to the hacks and hangers-on, and value to those that want centralized government control.
    That sounds familiar….

  3. JBS on January 21, 2012 at 10:20 am

    A resounding NO! from me. As a twenty-five year (now retired) teacher, I can say emphatically that the Department of Education caused and is causing more harm and confusion than many administrators I worked with. Eliminating the Department of Education would free up billions of dollars. It educates NO ONE. Perhaps its biggest fiasco was the No Child Left Behind Law. Its “one size fits all” mentality is impractical and causes local school boards to waste precious funds to meet its guidelines. In any community, parents are the force that should determine what is relevant in the education process. The federal government only created the Department of Education to ensure educational equality for minorities. Test scores are not any better since the Department’s inception.
    Education is a local matter. The Department of Education would not be missed if it was abolished. Its grant functions to municipalities could be well handled by another agency. But, if the Department of Education was dissolved, then its unfunded mandates would not have to be followed, thus saving more money that could be used directly in the classroom. Only administrators would miss it.

  4. Lynn on January 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Before the two commentators from the “other side” weigh in, and loudly trumpet that the No Child Left Behind Law was President Bush’s fault. I want to remind everyone that President Bush put forth the legislation proposed by Senator Edward Kennedy in a move to show bipartisanship. BTW, he gained nothing from this gesture, because as soon as people denounced the law, Senator Kennedy distanced himself from it.

    • JBS on January 22, 2012 at 7:25 am

      That is a common Dem tactic to make the loyal opposition look foolish. Just because Bush (41 and 43) is a Republican doesn’t mean that either of them can’t be wrong and fall for Dem tricks.
      Dems are like that.

  5. ricbee on January 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    The DOE is just another layer of bureaucracy confusing issues & costing schools? time & money.

  6. joe_m on January 22, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Oh come on! Without the DOE, just think what the unemployment rate would be. All those federal union jobs would be lost. What a cost to the ecomony!

  7. sammy22 on January 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Glad to read that some many people would be willing to see their property taxes skyrocket if federal money was not forthcoming from the DOE.

    • Lynn on January 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      But, we have more control over state and town budgets. IE. if we were able to stop the unfunded mandates for education by our grandstanding General Assembly in CT, it would help our town education budgets and consequently keep down property taxes. Pressure could actually be brought to do this with the loss of federal money. Likewise towns would not build Taj Mahals for schools, if they don’t get state reimbursement. I believe in local control the more local the better.? ?

    • JBS on January 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      The post made the point that the Department of Education has no legal basis in the Constitution. It’s not like defense, commerce or state which are definitely required by the Constitution.?
      If DOEd was eliminated, there would be no need for the government to confiscate that money from citizens, thus the money would be available for local initiatives. Theoretically, of course. (Trying to put Congress on a money diet would be . . . d’huh, they only want more, not less.)
      Maybe property taxes would go up, but in reality, (yeah, like that’s ever gonna work) federal taxes should go down. In reality. Local control is much better than having to dance to a Washington bureaucrat’s politically inspired tune.

    • Dimsdale on January 23, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Where does the DOE get their money in the first place?? How much of the cost per pupil in CT is derived from funded/unfunded mandates from the DOE?

  8. sammy22 on January 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Sounds hopeful. My experience has been that the citizens with children in the school system will exert the appropriate level of pressure to keep everything they have now, not to mention future? Taj Mahals, athletic fields w/ lights for night football and the like.

    • Dimsdale on January 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Isn’t it amazing to hear them squawk when the schools, in a budget crunch, ask the parents pay fees for all the extracurricular activities in which they want their children enrolled?

  9. Plainvillian on January 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    The quality of education in the US has declined since the establishment of he Department of Education.? It is an abject failure.
    The Department of Energy was established to decrease dependence on imported oil.? It has no done so.
    The Rural Electrification Administration was established in the early 2oth century to bring electrical power to rural area.? Eighty plus years later and at least fifty years after the goal was reached, we still have a Rural Electrification Administration staffed and part of a boated bureaucracy.
    All agencies, laws and regulations should be time limited at which time they can be continued, modified or terminated, depending whether they have fulfilled their charter or not, and whether they are still needed, based on review by elected persons.? Most, agencies and regulations would cease to exist if this rule were applied.

    • Lynn on January 23, 2012 at 7:52 am

      It sounds so simple. Why, oh Why can’t we control our government? We have a great government structure, honestly, I don’t know how to turn the system around.

  10. zedgar2 on January 22, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Absolutely should not be a DOE. But remember who helped pass the legislation setting this up? In 1979, the bill passed the House by only 15 votes with only 30 Republicans voting in favor. Newt Gingrich was one of them. That was a long time ago but it is an example of how his support for grandiose ideas can have terrible consequences over time.

  11. Lynn on January 23, 2012 at 7:58 am

    zedgar2, thank you, I did not know that. However, now that I do and I am working on his campaign, I will bring it up.? Grandiose ideas do have consequences over time and our govt. is full of them. I would like one candidate to get up and say. NO NEW legislation, let’s spend one year examining federal depts and closing them if they have not succeeded at their intended goals in the original legislation.? But I guess we could never agree…..

  12. Tim-in-Alabama on January 23, 2012 at 8:13 am

    The Department of Education is the poster child for failure in the federal government. Education performance has dropped as it has grown, but for some reason, Democrats embrace it’s “trickle down” spending with bureaucrats at every level taking their cut before money trickles back down to the schools. Kill it and let its employees enter the job market. They’re such top notch go-getters they should have no trouble finding work.

    • Tim-in-Alabama on January 23, 2012 at 8:14 am

      It’s = its. (That’s the result of DOE’s failure to teach me possessives.)

  13. SeeingRed on January 23, 2012 at 8:50 am

    DOEd:??abolish, over?? The failure of this bureaucracy can only be trumped by the other DOE (The Department of Energy was instituted on 8/04/1977 TO LESSEN OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL).


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