Debunking Statist Arguments: The Department of Education

Here are parts one & two of the series.

“If I talked to any college student who is going into education right now, I’d tell them not to pursue teaching.”  Those were the depressing but very real words Ms. K told me on her last day of teaching the kindergarten level for over 20 years.  She is having surgery on her knees that was supposed to bring just this year of teaching to an end; however, due to the difficulties of trying to teach kids in the rigid and out-dated public school system, Ms. K decided to fully retire.  What has made this wonderful woman not only run from the job she loved but also stop others from running to the job she once pursued?

Argument: We need the Department of Education to have a solid education system in America!  If we didn’t have it, we would be failing our kids.Debunked

Answer: Actually, if we don’t get rid of the Department of Education then we are failing our kids in America.  It is precisely federal involvement in education that has ruined our education system and has pushed teachers such as Ms. K out of the honorable service.  No, the federal government isn’t the only factor; however, it cannot be denied that the Department of Education (and other federal involvement) has been an abmissmal failure and a destructive force in America.<--break->

How do we know that the Ed Dept. has failed?  Well, let’s start with the obvious measurement of success: student achievement.  Has the Department of Education improved student achievement in America?  If so, then it is a success.  If not, it is an obvious failure.

Well, the Department of Education was established in 1979.  Before moving on, this should be our first piece of evidence that America will survive without it.  We have a few hundred years of successful schools before making the Department of Education.  Nevertheless, looking at data since its conception in 1979, we can see that spending has increased astronomically.  We would expect that due to this massive increase in spending there would be a correlated increase in student achievement; however, that’s not the case whatsoever.  In Figure 28.1 (below) of a CATO Institute Poicy Handbook produced in 2003 for the 108th Congress, one student achievement measurement put up against federal spending since 1979 shows no positive growth.

CATO education figure

The Policy Handbook goes on to say:

American taxpayers have spent virtually billions of dollars on the Department of Education since its founding in 1979, yet test scores and other measures indicate no improvement in American education (Figure 28.1).  The benefits promised by the proponents of the deparment plainloy have not materialized.  There is simply no legitimate reason to continue this failed experiment.

It isn’t as if this is a big secret that is tough to crack.  Our education system is broken; we are currently ranked 17th internationally in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in mathematics (behind powerhouses such as Estonia, both the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Portugal, among others).

Andrew Coulson, a policy expert at CATO, has pointed out the serious problem of massive spending and poor performance: In 2009, we spent $151,000 per student on the graduating class of that year.  This nearly three times as much as in 1970, adjusting for inflation.  Still, we have little to show for this increase.

Putting all of this aside, though, there is another overwhelming reason to abolish the Department of Education: There is no constitutional authority for the federal government to be involved in our schools.  In other words, the government doesn’t even have the legal authority to do what is doing right now, which is failing.  It should have never even had the opportunity.  This in itself is reason enough to get rid of not only the Department of Education but all traces of federal involvement in education.

Of course, our federal government has been involved in education for longer than just since 1979; other federal programs inacted before then have contributed to the problem we have today.  Still, it would be ignorant to not start to repeal what is currently doing the most damage.  The statist argument that we need our federal government to ensure success in education for our kids has officially been debunked.

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