NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Critique of U.S. Education Department

February 2, 1996

Many policy analysts believe the federal Education Department -- which has grown at three times the rate of all other government programs except entitlements in the past 16 years -- was created by President Carter as a political payoff to the teachers' unions.

Even some leading Democrats in Congress at the time of its creation voted for the department with misgivings. One described it as "a back room deal, born out of squalid politics," and predicted it would "meddle in everything."

  • Since its birth in 1979, the Department of Education's expenditures have increased from $12.4 billion annually to $32.9 billion last year.
  • In the past five years, the number of bureaucrats it employs has risen from 4,596 to 5,100.
  • The programs it administers have increased from 155 to more than 240 in over five years.
  • Yet from 1970 to 1992, Student Aptitude Test Scores rose only just over one percent -- while per pupil spending rose 35 percent, adjusted for inflation.

Despite promises by supporters that creating the department would reduce bureaucracy and red tape, it has only grown. General Accounting Office audits:

  • Have warned of long-standing management problems, impaired organizational capacity, and managers ill-equipped to carry out their responsibilities.
  • They also found that 30 other agencies spend $27 billion on 308 "duplicative and overlapping" education programs.

Last year, the American School Board Journal asked its readers -- mostly school board members -- if the Department should be abolished. Nearly two-thirds said yes.

Source: Editorial, "Protecting Education?" Investor's Business Daily, February 2, 1996.


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