Bradley Byrne: Abolishing the U.S. Department of Education
The federal government is just too big and too intrusive in the daily lives of the American people. Our Founders never intended for it to have the gross overreach that it does today. Indeed, they had just won their independence from an overreaching English king, and they wanted their new government under the Constitution to be limited.
The Founders also valued the role of state and local governments, using the Tenth Amendment to reserve to the states and the people those powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution. Many things the federal government does today are not even mentioned in the Constitution.
Education was important to the Founders, but they left that function to the states. So, it was the states of Georgia and North Carolina that formed the first public universities in 1785 and 1789. The first public high school was started by the City of Boston in 1821. Other than creating the service academies and providing federal land to states for them to sell for the endowment of agricultural and science colleges, like our own Auburn University, the federal government was not involved in education until well after World War II.
The federal government provides less than 20% of all education funding. So, in the U.S., education should be a state and local endeavor.
Nonetheless, during the Carter administration, Congress created a federal Department of Education, which now has 4,000 employees and a budget of $68 billion. It has no schools or colleges, but, like most federal departments and agencies, puts out lots of regulations and red tape to state and local schools.
This regulatory burden adds enormous expense to the cost of educating our students, a cost which cripples state and local governments and ultimately means state and local taxpayers. Worse, the federal government wrongfully steals the appropriate role of state and local governments in setting standards and policies for state and local schools. Remember when the Obama administration tried to dictate how public schools would run their bathrooms? They also tried to tell public universities how to handle student discipline.
The federal Department of Education should never have been created in the first place, but it’s time to abolish it, saving billions of dollars in administrative costs and removing the federal government from education decision making. They don’t know near as much about how to educate our students or run our schools as our superintendents, principals and teachers do. And their politically correct meddling is egregious.
I served on the Alabama State Board of Education and as the leader of our two-year college system. I have seen firsthand the costs of federal regulation at the state level and pushed back against the overreaching federal regulations. But, when I got to Washington, I was appalled to the waste, expense, and size of the federal Department of Education.
Everyone in America, except for the Washington bureaucrats at the Department, would benefit from doing away with it. Taxpayers would save money. State and local education officials would be free to do their jobs. And teachers, parents and citizens would reclaim control of our schools.
I know this would mean different choices in different states and localities and that we wouldn’t have a uniform national education system. But, that has been our tradition in this country. What Massachusetts wants will be different from what we want here in Alabama. There’s nothing wrong with that.
To be sure, we can learn from one another, as when Massachusetts studied the Alabama Reading Initiative to use parts of it in their state. The states were meant to be laboratories of innovation regarding these types of government functions. Let them do so, and we all will be better off.
The opponents of this idea want the power to control education from Washington, a power never intended by our Founders. And they want this power to dictate standards and policies for educating our children, and ultimately what we teach, including morality and values. It’s part of a broader agenda to reorder our society from the regressive Left. The Founders sure never intended that.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. And abolishing the federal Department of Education is clearly the right thing to do. As Alabama’s Senator, that is exactly what I will do.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.