The results are in: The Department of Education (DOE) is the least popular of all federal departments. Considering the stagnate state of U.S. students’ test scores despite ever increasing federal education spending, this should come as no surprise. What should be surprising—and troubling—however, is that some Members of Congress want to allocate even more taxpayer money to this “bureaucratic boondoggle,” as termed by President Ronald Reagan.
Currently, Congress is considering pumping $10 billion more into the DOE, adding to the recent $80 billion already allocated via the stimulus package. After decades of increased funding for the DOE, created just 30 years ago, its budget now ranks as the third largest of all government agencies. Nonetheless, American students’ achievement has flatlined, and they continue to lag behind their peers internationally.
This process of taking taxpayer money from states, filtering it through the DOE, and then sending it back to states is inefficient and has done little to boost academic achievement. It has, however, raised the salaries of government employees. Not including executive salaries, the average annual income of a DOE employee this year will be $103,000: nearly double the average annual teacher salary ($53,000 in 2009). Adding to this overblown spending, in 2009 the federal government’s Program Assessment Rating Tool—used to identify ineffective and duplicative programs—reported $359 million in earmarks in the DOE’s budget.
Furthermore, greater federal funding for education has come with increased federal red tape. This only adds to administrative burden and does nothing to help students learn. Data indicates that even though the federal government contributes only around 10 percent of the funding for education, it is responsible for 41 percent of the administrative compliance burden placed on states. As Washington spends more on education, this burden will likely grow.
In a time of burgeoning national and state debt, amidst an increasing need for school reform, the answer is not to perpetuate the problems facing the public school system by feeding the federal bureaucracy. States should have greater freedom to implement reforms tailored to the needs of their students instead of being burdened with more one-size-fits-all mandates from the federal government by way of an inefficient and increasingly expensive DOE.
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