Policy, Social Justice

This one-sentence bill could abolish the Department of Education

Betsy DeVos could very well be put out of a job by her own party by 2018.

Earlier this month, Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Representative, introduced an eight-word bill proposing to eliminate the Department of Education. It’s literally one sentence: “To terminate the Department of Education.”

Is this real?

Photo by Bill Clark via Huffington Post

Yes, this bill is not a hoax.

  • Massie argues on his website that education should be handled at the state and local level. “Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn,” he said.
  • Representative Raul Labrador, a co-sponsor on the bill, said: “I’ve always been a proponent of empowering parents, teachers and local school boards who best know our children and their needs. Eliminating the U.S. Department of Education is the most important step we in Congress can take in returning decision-making to the local level.”
  • Rep. Walter Jones, another co-sponsor, argues that “D.C. bureaucrats cannot begin to understand the needs of schools and its students on an individual basis. It is time that we get the feds out of the classroom, and terminate the Department of Education.”
  • Other co-sponsors: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).

Why abolish something that does so much good? 

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

In short, the Department’s goal is to “ensure equal educational opportunity for all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age.” In addition to this, the Department:

  • Provides federal student loans.
  • Regulates schools.
  • Creates criteria for who can receive financial aid, how much, and oversees the entire process.
  • Collects data involving the nation’s schools and examines this data in order to create a better and more effective learning environment.
  • Works to eliminate discrimination of any kind within the school system.  This is to ensure that students with disabilities and minorities receive a quality education provided by the government. 
  • Provides over 4,000 jobs to the American people

Without DOE regulations, states could decide to structure their schools however they please – opening the door to systematic prejudice and discrimination – and structure their curricula as they saw fit.

Here’s the kicker: states don’t need extra control, they already have it.

Spencer Platt for Getty Images, via source

The Department introduces policies and enforces that every child has access to education, but that’s where it ends. The 10th amendment imposes a check on the Department of Education. We don’t need to remove the Department of Education in order to give states more control – the control is with them already.  This has been the case for years.

Efforts to abolish the DOE aren’t new for the Republican Party.

Evan Vucci for AP Images, via Thinkprogress

This is not the first time that members of the Republican party have toyed with the idea of abolishing the DOE:

  • In 1980, Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan included abolishing the DOE in his campaign platform.
  • Rick Perry (our current Energy Secretary, mind you) promised during his presidential campaign in 2016 that he would eliminate the Department of Education, as well as the Department of Energy, and the Department of Commerce. Cough cough.

A Congressional committee is currently mulling this over – but will it really pass? 

The Hill

H.R. 899 was introduced February 7th and has since been referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce. This bill can be deemed as “symbolic legislation,” meaning there’s strong reason to believe it won’t pass. Considering the abolition of such an instrumental Department was reduced to one sentence – without mentioning a timeline, budget, or other necessary logistics – it’s unlikely this particular bill will go much further.

However, considering there are members of the White House cabinet who are spearheading the very departments they swore to abolish, anything is possible under this administration.

It’s predicted that by 2021, 91% of kids in America will attend public k-12 schools, and only 9% will go to private schools.  This distinction is important to recognize.  The Department of Education is the only way to guarantee an equal learning opportunity for all American students. Fingers crossed – here’s to hoping this doesn’t become reality.