Ky. Lawmaker’s One-Line Bill Would Abolish the Dept. of Education, Return Power to States

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Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. wants to put control of educational policy back in the hands of local governments by eliminating the Dept. of Education. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The idea of Washington bureaucrats controlling the future of U.S. education makes this Kentucky lawmaker cringe. That’s why he’s attempting to ax the Education Department.

Republican State Rep. Thomas Massie on Tuesday, Feb. 7, introduced a bill to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. In a single sentence, Massie’s bill reads, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 30, 2018” — a relatively straightforward proposal.

“Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn,” the Kentucky lawmaker said. “Un-elected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students.”

Massie went on to say that schools should be held accountable and advocated for parents’ rights to select the most appropriate educational setting for their kid(s) — whether that be public school, private school or home school.

His unconventional proposal came on the same day the U.S. Senate voted to confirm former Michigan senator Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Her appointment — which wouldn’t have happened without the historic tiebreaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence — was contested by many liberals, and even some conservatives, due to her woefully limited experience dealing with the public school system. DeVos’ support for school choice, charter schools and voucher programs also made her an enemy among Democrats, who argued that charters and voucher systems would further privatize and threaten public education.

The notion of gutting the DOE is no new phenomena, however. Eliminating the government’s role in U.S. education has been on conservatives’ to-do list since the era of former president Ronald Reagan, according to news site Rare. The federal agency, founded in 1980 under the administration of President Jimmy Carter, has remained at the forefront of Republican efforts to dismantle the bureaucracy and return control of educational policy back to the states and local governments. However, the GOP took a break from these efforts during the presidency of George W. Bush, the news site reported.

More recently, notable conservatives like newly elected President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry also have pushed platforms advocating for the termination of the DOE. During his presidential campaign, Trump asserted that the “massive” department could be “largely eliminated.”

“D.C. bureaucrats cannot begin to understand the needs of schools and its students on an individual basis,” said North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones, who is a co-sponsor of Massie’s bill. “It is time that we get the feds out of the classroom and terminate the Department of Education.”

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), among others, according to Rare.

Legal analysts who spoke with 5 News Online said that eliminating the DOE would be no easy task. Because the department was established through the Department of Education Organization Act and approved by members of Congress, the only way it can be abolished is through the use of a replacement act.

“It would, of course, require another act of Congress to eliminate the United States Department of Education,” said Laurence Tribe, a Harvard legal scholar.

Massie’s proposed bill to dismantle the DOE will likely face intense push back from Democrats, especially in the wake of DeVos’ confirmation. There’s no word on when the legislation will be voted on.

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