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LETTER: Abolish the Department of Education

To the Editor:

Let’s abolish the federal Department of Education.

The federal government, through the Department of Education, is mandating a new government program: the “Response to Intervention” (RTI) program.

RTI is a federally mandated program to ensure universal achievement for all students. This mandates that if a teacher has 22 students in a classroom, there must be 22 individual plans. More bureaucratic government intervention. This is the mandated “No Child Left Behind “program on steroids.

People are beginning to realize that the Department of Education does not have students’ needs as its focus, but the slow and gradual centralization of all educational decision making by bureaucrats in Washington. Local communities and states can best realize the needs of student education, not some federal bureaucrat. One size does not fit all. Each classroom and teacher can best determine the students’ needs and most effective methods to teach them. It’s time to abolish the federal Department of Education.

In 1979 the Department of Education was created under President Jimmy Carter. It was opposed by many people who felt that it was unconstitutional because it violated the 10th amendment, reserving all unenumerated powers (education) to the states. They felt that it was an unnecessary federal bureaucratic intrusion into local affairs.

They were right.

The budget for the federal Department of Education is $68.6 billion, and it has over 5,000 employees. Since its beginnings in 1979, it has supervised the continuous and slow decline of our educational standings in the world. The United States now ranks as the 48th country from the top in science and math scores.

Through federal failed programs such as the “America Competes Act,” “The Race to the Top,” the infamous “No Child Left Behind Act,” and now this new RTI Act, the feds have concocted universal programs that have created more bureaucratic problems and taken teachers’ focus out of the classroom and on to record keeping and test scores.

Local administrators are so worried about losing the federal money that they focus on all the wrong things. Teaching to the test is mandatory in most local administrative districts.

Enough is enough.

It is time to abolish the federal Department of Education. Let the states and local communities decide how best their students should be educated. Maine taxpayers send millions of tax dollars to support the federal Department of Education. The feds send part of it back with all these bureaucratic strings attached and mandates on how the state can use the money. It doesn’t make sense—especially considering we are $13 trillion in debt, with no end in sight. Let’s get back to those principles of the Constitution that limit the size and intrusiveness of our federal government in our lives.

In 1982, President Ronald Regan in his State of the Union pledged: “The budget plan I submit to you on February 8 will realize major savings by dismantling the Department of Education.” Unfortunately, this part of the budget was dropped because of the resistance of Washington to give back power to the states.

In the 1980s and 1990s the abolishment of the Department of Education was part of the Republican Platform. Progressive presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama have all expanded the size and scope of the federal Department of Education.

Today there is a reawakening. One size does not fit all. The best government is that which is closest to the people. The federal Department of Education is an impediment to good local teachers and their students. It should be abolished.

George Mathews


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