Bowra: Do we need a Department of Education?

The Department of Education was founded in May of 1980 as a way for the Federal government to better serve American students.  It was a way for them to monitor the learning experience in schools, see which were working the best, and to give additional funding to school districts that needed it.  It was designed to make sure each child had an equal opportunity for the best education they could possibly have. 

Schools in America were fine before the ED (Education Department) was formed.  That children were not receiving a good education before that, was not the case.  This was something done by President Carter, only months before he lost his bid for a second term.  This was something that, I think, was never needed in the first place. 

First of all, the budget for the Department of Education is approximately $69.9 billion.  They give the most funding to elementary and secondary schools, and even then they only give about 10% of a state’s total school year budget.  Where is the rest of that money going?  As it states on the Department of Education website, that money is classified as “discretionary appropriations.”  Discretionary means “subject or left to one’s own discretion” or “for any use or purpose one chooses” (  What this means is that the government does not have to tell anyone where this money is going.  It is their own choice.
Well, the government would most likely say, to testing the school districts and seeing which are doing the best.  This is probably true; but aren’t the states able to do the same thing, and probably with better results?  By better results, I mean that since they would only be testing their own school districts, state officials would be able to do deeper testing and would understand more the needs of certain schools.  They could see what the schools could do without to cut down spending. 

The states that receive the most funding (or have their own high funding) spend the most money per student.  New York has the second highest per-pupil expenditure in the nation at $16,794, but has one of the lowest graduation rates at 70.8%.  The District of Columbia has the third highest per-pupil expenditure at $16,353, and the second lowest graduation rate at 56%.  On the other hand, Wisconsin has the highest graduation rate in the nation, with 89.6%, and only spend $10,791 per pupil.  Iowa and Minnesota, both with 84.6% graduation rates, also defy the national average for per-pupil spending, yet keep their graduation rates up ($9,520 in Iowa and $10,048 in Minnesota). 

It is obvious that spending more per student does not assure the highest graduation rates.  Rather, it seems that the states that do spend the most money are the ones who are struggling.  I would think that this is the purpose of the ED– find out why these states are struggling when they have, supposedly, invested the most.  Or could it be that, since the ED gave them the extra money to invest, they do not want to investigate why the states are doing poorly?  Just a thought.  It could be true, and maybe it is not, but all the same, I personally do not see a need for the Department of Education.

Instead of having one national department for education, why not let the states have their own?  Education is nowhere in the Constitution.  Nowhere does it say that there must be a federal department for it.  This is where the 10th Amendment would come into practice, which states that the powers not given to the federal government are given to the states.  Since the power to oversee education is not in the Constitution, that power is given to the states. 

Also going along with that, we have approximately 100,000 schools in the United States.  Is it even possible that one national department could properly serve every single one of them?  It would be better to have state departments; that way, the states would be able to take better care of their own students. 

The Department of Education is costing us billions of dollars every year, dollars that could be saved or spent elsewhere.  Testing schools for success is a job for the state, not the national government.  Students would have a greater opportunity for a great education if the department overseeing it was smaller, and therefore could focus on what really matters.


One comment on “Bowra: Do we need a Department of Education?

  1. Lennie says:

    You are correct, the Dept. Of education should be abolished. It does not teach a single child and is a waste of money. If you want to improve education you just have to fund the child ( This empowers parents and the local communities where it belongs. A gov’t bureaucrat should not be choosing what school a child attends.

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