NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Put Department of Education in Timeout

November 5, 2010

The U.S. Department of Education was created with the primary stated goal of increasing students' test scores, but test scores for 17-year-old American students have remained essentially flat since 1970.  The department's budget has grown to a whopping $107 billion this year.  Per pupil, taxpayer-financed education spending (adjusted for inflation) has risen by more than 200 percent since 1970 (and 150-plus percent since 1980).  Clearly and unambiguously, the department deserves a grade of F, says Richard W. Rahn, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Many of the just-elected members of Congress have called for elimination of the Department of Education.  What the new Congress can and should do, however, is greatly reduce the department's budget.

  • The ratio of classroom teachers to pupils has grown very slowly over the past 40 years despite the huge increase in government spending on education.
  • Most of the increase in spending has gone to education bureaucrats -- including more and more layers of "administrators" (assistant principals, deputy assistant principals, and on and on) -- and much of it is needless overhead.
  • So, as those in Congress cut back the department's funding, they must be smart about it -- they need to insist that the funds be reduced for the middlemen and not the classroom teachers.

The nation is best served by having a highly competitive mix of public, private, nonprofit and for-profit educational institutions.

Source: Richard W. Rahn, "Put Department of Education in Timeout," Washington Times, November 2, 2010.

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