Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Do We Really Need A Federal Department of Education?

I'm not convinced that the Office of Education we had pre-Carter couldn't do everything we need done at the federal level, but without a Cabinet-level department, what would we need such junkets for?
Federal education officials spend more than $1.5 million every year on a gathering of college financial aid administrators held at high-end vacation destinations.

Last year's four-day conference, which opened in late November, was hosted by the U.S. Department of Education at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The year before that, the event was at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando.

The MGM event was the federal government's most expensive conference held at a casino hotel last year, according to the Federal Procurement Data System.


MikeAT said...


Similar to the other Cabinet level tit on a boar to come from Carter (Department of Energy), no. The Dept of Education was notionally to improve
education in the country although we all know it’s a payoff to the NEA. Since it’s inception education has taken a dive in this country.

Just like Energy who’s stated goal was to get the US off of foreign oil. Our reliance on the oil has doubled since Carter and its’ doing more to stop production of energy than anything.

So yes, both are complete failures and waste of billions a year. Naturally they will continue to suck down tax dollars no matter who wins in November.

mmazenko said...

Yes, we need a cabinet-level Dept of Education. Not that it can't be modified. But it would be wrong for a first-world nation to not have a department that places education on the highest level of priority. Lots of high end military junkets that don't draw any bad press.

Darren said...

Where I grew up, "he did it, too" was considered so weak as not to be allowed as an excuse.

allen said...

The federal Bureau of Education, part of the Department of the Interior prior to 1980, was largely a statistics-gathering organization and a pretty minor one at that. Education was constitutionally the business of the states and the federal government had no role other then to count noses.

Perhaps Mike knows of some worthwhile function performed by the Department of Education, beside the vital task of signaling America's desperate concern with education, but as far as I can determine it's not worth its cost having done nothing the states couldn't have done for themselves and probably better.

maxutils said...

What was that section of the Constitution that allowed the Federal Government to have any say in education, again? I seem to be unable to find it.

EdD said...

You could start by noting that education is not specifically addressed in the Constitution. That being so, the matter then becomes a concern of the states pursuant to the provisions of the 10th Amendment.

MikeAT said...


It will be the Commerce Clause. That and the face no Supreme Court after (as I recall) 1938 will limit Congress in what is commerce between "the states, and foreign nations, and the indian tribes."

In simple language the courts allow Congress to determine what is "interstate commerce" and to regulate it.

Anonymous said...

"It will be the Commerce Clause."

According wiki, the argument has already been made (though not in court): "Upgrading Education to cabinet level status in 1979 was opposed by many in the Republican Party, who saw the department as unconstitutional, arguing that the Constitution doesn't mention education, and deemed it an unnecessary and illegal federal bureaucratic intrusion into local affairs. However many liberals and Democrats see the department as constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that the funding role of the Department is constitutional under the Taxing and Spending Clause."

My read is that you can do *anything* under the Commerce Clause.

-Mark Roulo

maxutils said...

MikeAT . . .you make my point. Schools are not involved in any form of interstate commerce; even if one attends school out of state, one typically moves to that state.

Shannon Severance said...


I think what the Department of Education does comes from the spending powers. Somehow the constitution constricts what the Feds can do via fiat except things like "regulation of commerce". The the Feds are, constitutionally, free to spend money on whatever they want, and when sending the money to the states can add whatever strings they want*.

* The majority of the Supreme Court of the US did limit the change of attached strings in the ObamaCare ruling.

Also, as I understand the ObamaCare decision, a majority, five, of justices held that the individual mandate, was not allowed under the commerce clause. Of those five, one Chief Justice Roberts, held that the individual mandate could be upheld under the taxing powers.

That said, I don't have references handy, if you find references that the Department of Education doings are broadly supported by the Commerce Clause versus the spending powers, I'm happy to learn something new, even while being proven wrong.

MikeAT said...

@ maxutils

I agree. Education is not commerce and in a sane world Congress would not even think of doing this and the courts would say "No Congress, you can't spend money on that..."

But we are not in a same world.

maxutils said...

That may be true, MikeAT . . . but it won't prevent me from pointing out the inability of the Supreme Court to perform there most basic duty, to read the Constitution BEFORE making decisions, every time they are wrong.

MikeAT said...


Obviously you missed it. The Constitution is a living and breathing document that requires geniuses to interpret it for modern times. You think you can read it and know what it means. How 18th century of you!


And we are in agreement, the courts are out of control. The Constitution means what it says and says what it means. But judges like power.