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Why does the GOP and the Tea Party want to abolish the Department of Education?

Under President George W. Bush, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) increased the Department of Education’s (DOE) budget from $46 Billion to $60 Billion (In 2012, the budget reached $68.1 Billion). For a comparison, under Bush, the Department of Defense (DOD) budget went from $308.9 Billion in 2001 to $729.6 Billion in 2008—an increase of $420.7 Billion compared to the $14 Billion increase for the DOE.

Meanwhile, in 2012, the federal deficit was $1.327 Trillion and the Interest on the debt was $224.8 Billion.

But the GOP wants to save money by abolishing the DOE while increasing the budget for the DOD. I’m confused because this makes no sense, and I wonder what the real reason is. What are they not telling us?

The NCLBA was enacted due to an act of Congress, and Congress represents the fifty states. The NCLBA gave the DOE more responsibilities to monitor public education in all fifty states.

When congress voted and authorized the NCLBA that gave the DOE more responsibility and more funding on May 23, 2001, the House of Representatives voted 384 – 45,  and the Senate voted 91 – 8 in favor of the act.

In 2001, the 107th Congress had a Senate that was split 50-50 and the House of Representatives had 221 Republicans to 212 Democrats.

In truth, it was an imperfect bill incapable of solving the challenges of public education in part because it put the blame and responsibility on the shoulders of teachers and none on parents and students.

In 2001, the Republican Party held majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate with a GOP president in the White House.

If you were to read the history of the DOE, you would discover it was created in 1867 to collect information on schools and teaching that would help the States establish effective school systems. Over the last 145 years, this goal of gathering information on what works in education continues. Source: ed.gov

In fact, in 1867, in the 40th Congress, the GOP held a vast majority in both Houses: 42 to 11 in the Senate and 143 to 49 in the House.

As you have now learned, the GOP, as the majority, created the DOE in 1867, and played a crucial role increasing its responsibility in 2001, so why has the Republican Party in recent years set a goal to abolish the DOE?

Think Progress.org reported, “As recently as 1996, the Republican Party platform declared, ‘The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education.’ … Now, a new wave of Republicans (along with many old hard-line conservatives) are trying to number its days once again.” …

“A comprehensive review of the voting records and statements of Republican incumbents and candidates finds that there are 111 GOPers (Republicans) who support shutting down the Department of Education,” Think Progress said.

Yet, in 145 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has never questioned the Constitutionality of the DOE and the mandate it was given by more than one act of Congress.

For a comparison, the federal government only had 2.8 million civilian employees in 2010 and 25.6% of federal civilian employees worked for the DOD while only about two tenths of one percent (0.17%) work for the DOE. In addition, the DOE’s share of the federal budget is 5%, while the DOD’s budget has increased to about 55% of the federal pie.

If the DOE were abolished, public education in the US would lose its eyes and ears, and abolishing the DOE would do nothing to stem the tide of the national debt. It would literally be a drop in the ocean.

In addition, public education in the US is often compared as inferior to Finland’s schools that are ranked as one of the best public educational systems in the world. Compared to the top thirty-three ranked countries for 2009, Finland was 2nd in Reading, 1st in Math, and 1st in Science. The US was ranked 33rd, 27th, and 22nd respectively.

If we want to learn something from Finland, it helps to know that in the Finnish Government, the Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for developing educational, science, sport and youth policies and international cooperation in these fields. The Ministry also allows the teachers’ union a role in decision making on duties, conditions of work, salary scales and instruction time. However, in the US, teachers are often not part of the decision making process and teachers’ unions are under constant attack and criticism.

It is obvious that as long as the US has fifty different educational systems each based on conflicting political and religious agendas, then the US educational system will never compete equally with countries such as Finland. If we are to compete with Finland, we must learn from what they do–not just compare rankings and blame our teachers and teachers’ unions.

Therefore, why are hard-line conservative types taking aim at the DOE in the US? (For example: think of the Tea Party that was founded and supported in large part by two of the four Koch brothers and the Wal-Mart, Walton family that has pushed hard for voucher schools. This list also includes fundamentalist, evangelical, born again Christians that want the schools to teach creationism instead of evolution and science.)

What is the political agenda of these factions of the Republican Party? Why do these factions in the GOP want to cripple and blind the public education system in the United States leaving it fractured in fifty different pieces? What will these hard-line conservatives and capitalists gain if they succeed?

The answer may be found, in part, from these facts: In the US, there are about 16,000 school districts and approximately 49 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools and 28,000 private schools. To pay for this, the fifty states raise (mostly through local and state taxes) and spend almost one trillion dollars annually for public and private funded education. The budget of the DOE represents about 6.8% of that total. The DOE is the guard dog that gathers information on education in all fifty states and reports to Congress and the president what it learns. If any states or school districts are found to be in violation of laws enacted by the Congress, then the President of the United States is duty bound by his or her oath of office to protect and defend those laws.

Discover the National Debt info-graphic by president 1945 – 2012

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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