The Solution is Simple…But It Ain’t Easy

Over at Education Week, Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute hurls a series of six high-speed curve ball questions regarding the the federal Department of Education and its proposed abolition by various Republican candidates for the presidential nomination.

I’m not entirely sure where he’s going with this line of questioning: is it a test of the candidate’s commitment to the core tenets of Constitutional Conservatism or a test of the candidate’s ability to pragmatically navigate treacherous political waters? I suspect it’s both.

  1. It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere). So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?
  2. Do you intend to push to eliminate federal funding for special education? If not, who will be responsible for ensuring that states and districts spend those tax dollars in accord with statute? If yes, how will you argue the case to families with children enrolled in special education?
  3. Do you aim to eliminate the Pell grants and student loans that make up the lion’s share of ED’s activity? If you don’t intend to eliminate them, who will be charged with administering and policing them? If you do, how will you make the case to millions of families and students that use them?
  4. Do you hope to eliminate Title I funding for schools serving low-income students? If not, who will be responsible for ensuring those dollars are spent in accord with statute? If so, how will you justify cutting federal aid for the neediest students?
  5. Practically speaking, you know that special education and student lending are popular, with influential, outspoken, middle-class constituencies. How will you convince Congress to go along if you intend to eliminate these programs?
  6. If you don’t intend to zero out federal K-12 spending, do you hope to turn it into a giant block grant? If so, will you seek to eliminate rules requiring that federal Title I aid and special aid funds be spent on low-income children or those with special needs?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions. There are, however, correct answers. It would be interesting to see how well the candidates scoring cheap rhetorical points by promising to abolish the Department of Education (a worthwhile goal) could field these questions.

As a non-candidate for the office of President of the U.S., I’m pleased to offer my answers for the delectation of both my readers and Mr. Hess.

Question 1: It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere). So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?

Answer: All of them. The U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to appropriate or disburse funds for this purpose.

Question 2: Do you intend to push to eliminate federal funding for special education? If not, who will be responsible for ensuring that states and districts spend those tax dollars in accord with statute? If yes, how will you argue the case to families with children enrolled in special education?

Answer: I will explain that it is not the constitutional business of the federal government to fund education for special needs children. That is a matter for the states, which must decide how much they are prepared to allocate for special education.

Question 3: Do you aim to eliminate the Pell grants and student loans that make up the lion’s share of ED’s activity? If you don’t intend to eliminate them, who will be charged with administering and policing them? If you do, how will you make the case to millions of families and students that use them?

Answer: I would eliminate all Pell grants and federal student loans, as this activity is not authorized by the U.S. Constitution. As for the millions of families and students that rely upon them, I would suggest that they turn to their state governments for grant and loan assistance.

Question 4: Do you hope to eliminate Title I funding for schools serving low-income students? If not, who will be responsible for ensuring those dollars are spent in accord with statute? If so, how will you justify cutting federal aid for the neediest students?

Answer: I would eliminate Title I funding and defer to the U.S. Constitution for my justification.

Question 5: Practically speaking, you know that special education and student lending are popular, with influential, outspoken, middle-class constituencies. How will you convince Congress to go along if you intend to eliminate these programs?

Answer: In all likelihood, I would not be able to convince Congress; the Democrats are cynical Socialists and the Republican leadership happily goes along to get along. Needless to say, the veto pen will likely run out of ink during my first and only term of office – assuming I am elected, which we all know would never happen.

Question 6: If you don’t intend to zero out federal K-12 spending, do you hope to turn it into a giant block grant? If so, will you seek to eliminate rules requiring that federal Title I aid and special aid funds be spent on low-income children or those with special needs?

Answer: I will seek to abolish ALL federal spending in this area. And I will fail in that effort, because this nation has reached the tipping point where its Cardinal Strengths – virtue, self-reliance, education and unity – have all been compromised.

I harbor no anticipation of actually being elected, Mr. Hess. In this day and age, the constitutionalist agenda is simply too rich and spicy for an electorate raised on a diet of statist pablum to digest.

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