NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 1, 1995

The federal Department of Education was created in 1980 with a budget of $14 billion and 150 programs to administer. Since then, the department has consumed more than $350 billion. Congress has proposed eliminating it and many question whether it has been effective in achieving its stated goal of promoting "educational excellence throughout the nation."

It is difficult to find any positive effect on education from the Department of Education.

  • On the 1991 International Assessment of Education Progress, a test given to 13-year-old students in 20 countries, U.S. students scored below 12 other countries in both math and science.
  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that 94 percent of high school seniors surveyed were unable to solve multi-step math problems or use basic algebra and more than one-fourth could not add and subtract.
  • Furthermore, only 80 percent of the high school seniors could read a bus schedule, while 60 percent were unable to understand and summarize relatively complicated reading material and only 27 percent could write a simple letter.

Federal spending on education is not crucial to local school funding, since only 6 percent of local school funds comes from the federal government, while overall spending per pupil nationally increased 134 percent from 1980 to 1993.

In any event, the amount spent on education hasn't been linked to levels of student achievement. For example, with the exception of Switzerland, the United States spends more on education per student than any other country in the world - nearly 50 percent more than Germany and almost 85 percent more than Japan.

Source: "Failing America's Students: Fact and Fiction About the Department of Education," Issue Analysis No. 12, November 3, 1995, Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, 1250 H Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20004, (202) 783-3870.


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