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Where Does the Constitution Authorize the Federal Government to Control Education? Defund the Department of Education!

Updated 09 March 2011 @ 2355 PST - The Associated Press reported today that as many as 82% of the schools in this country are failing under the No Child Left Behind Act. Clearly the federal government is not adding to the success of our schools. Let’s get the federal government out of education and get the money they take from the people back in the hands of the states to spend on education as they see fit!

Los Angeles, CA – 9 March 2011 @ 0747 PST - The number one way to cut spending at the federal level and to reduce the size and scope of the federal government is to simply eliminate all unconstitutional programs, agencies, and spending. One of these unconstitutional agencies is the “Department of Education.”

There has been a lot of talk lately about teachers, school unions, quality of schools in each state (and even within states), school choice/vouchers, teacher pay, teacher benefits, and so on. Nearly all of that talk centers around what the federal government is going to do to improve the state of education in this country. Simply put, the best thing the feds can do to improve education in the United States is to stop taxing the people for education and stop regulating education!

Don’t have a coronary. The feds do not belong in education. Period. The people did not give the federal government the power to regulate education. As I’ve mentioned in several other posts, the general welfare clause does not permit the federal government to provide for the “general” well-being of individuals (which the DOE is tasked with doing). Rather, the general welfare clause only allows the federal government to provide for the general welfare of the United States, not the welfare or education of individuals. In other words, the general welfare clause allows the federal government to ensure the union is strong, that the states are safe from external (or domestic) threats, etc. Simply claiming that having a less-educated populace will weaken the financial, technological, and political powers of the United States is not enough to grant dominion over education to the feds.

The fact that the feds are not granted the power to regulate education in the constutition is enough to shut down the unconstitutional Department of Education. Why, then, do we still fund the DOE? Why do people continually call for more spending for schools at the federal level?

The House of Representatives investigated the Department of Education in 1996. Fifteen years ago, they found 760 unconstitutional federal education programs spread across 39 agencies, departments, commissions, and boards. All told, the congressmen found $120 billion being spent without constitutional authorization. To make matters worse, that money was being squandered on non-fundamental education (i.e., it was not being spent on reading, writing, math, or science). I’m positive that those numbers would be much higher today.

Even the Department of Education acknowledges “the U.S. Constitution leaves the responsibility for public K-12 education with the states.” Unfortunately, the DOE goes on to disingenuously claim that it “supplements” the states’ roles in education–it does “supplant” their roles. Yeah, right. Their “supplementation” requires hundreds of forms from each district just to get the funding for these federal programs. Unconstitutional authority plus red tape–you’ve got to love it.

The Department of Education website goes on to say:

The responsibility for K-12 education rests with the states under the Constitution. There is also a compelling national interest in the quality of the nation’s public schools. Therefore, the federal government, through the legislative process, provides assistance to the states and schools in an effort to supplement, not supplant, state support. The primary source of federal K-12 support began in 1965 with the enactment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

So, although the DOE started in the late 1800s (under the name Office of Education, it really began stepping on the toes of states in the mid-1960s. Oh, but I forgot–the DOE does not exist to dictate to the states, just to supplement the states.

And how big is the Department of Education? How much “supplementation” can they provide? Well, to hear them tell it, they are just a tiny little agency. But, more telling, is that they acknowledge (in a note at the bottom of the page) that the DOE has the 3rd largest discretionary spending budget of any Cabinet agency! It is behind only the Department of Defense and the Department of Health & Human Services! What in the world is an unconstitutional agency doing with so much money?

If there was ever an example of an unconstitutional federal government agency, the Department of Education is it. Let’s get rid of it and let the states handle education themselves. The states don’t need the supplementation the feds provide. What the states (and the people) could use is the return of the money the feds are taking from them to pay for their education supplementation. When will people start holding the federal government to its limited roles?

Do you disagree with me? Is the Department of Education authorized by the Constitution? If you know where it is authorized (or just don’t care and want the feds to have all sorts of unconstitutional powers), please let me know.
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Dave Jones is not your typical liberal California criminal defense trial attorney. He is a libertarian who believes in less government, more guns, and greater freedom–in short, the principles on which this country was founded. He can be reached at the American Justice Center, via e-mail at djones at AmericanJusticeCenter.com, or by phone at 1-877-432-5325.

2 Responses to Where Does the Constitution Authorize the Federal Government to Control Education? Defund the Department of Education!
  1. regul8this
    March 19, 2011 | 20:25

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree with you entirely. Local and/or state control of just about everything is better than far-off federal control. And, besides, the Constitution just doesn't authorize most of what the feds do nowadays.

    Great blog, by the way. Reading sites like yours and hearing from common sense people like you makes me a bit more optimistic. Keep up the good work and maybe we can turn this country around in our lifetime (i.e., not turn over a disaster to our kids)!
    My recent post No Such Thing as a Sensible Gun Control Law

  2. @bsfootprint
    March 19, 2011 | 20:00

    Sadly, in many peoples' view, just about everything is authorized by the Constitution (thanks to the near-infinitely elastic Interstate Commerce Clause interpretations of federal judges). But no, there is no specific authorization in the Constitution. The average citizen just doesn't care. And that's the real tragedy.

    It's obvious that public education is in decline, and many have pointed out that the decline coincides with the history of federal funding. It seems like the more the feds get involved, the worse things get.

    We must return to local control and funding of schools. That is the only way we will begin to improve results.

    Our biggest obstacle: voicing support for elimination of the DoE is smeared as 'anti-education'. Sadly, the decline may have to continue (and we'll have to continue education efforts like yours) in order for us to gain the support of the average citizen
    My recent post Federal Reserve a clear and present danger to economic stability