Over the past few months, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has been conducting a series of hearings to examine the impact of the federal role in education on local schools. Presentations by school superintendents, education policy experts, and charter school operators painted a picture of the burden of federal involvement and regulation—resulting from approximately 150 programs operated by the Department of Education.
Chairman John Kline (R–MN) noted recently that:
Virtually every program has its own application process, separate or duplicative reporting requirements, and different eligibility criteria. It’s a complicated system levied on our schools, and dedicating the time and resources necessary to navigate this bureaucratic maze inevitably means time and resources spent outside the classroom.
A recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that billions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted on redundant programs. In fact, the report found 82 redundant teacher quality programs.
Schools must spend tremendous amounts of time and resources complying with the paperwork associated with these duplicative federal programs. According to Representative Duncan Hunter (R–CA), chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee:
Currently, the paperwork burden imposed by the Department of Education is larger than that of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice. From 2002 to 2009, the Department of Education’s paperwork burden increased by an estimated 65 percent—an astounding number that continues to grow.
Today, Hunter introduced a measure to curtail the proliferation of federal education programs and introduced what will be the first in a series of education reform bills being crafted by the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The committee stated that “Rep. Hunter’s legislation, the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891), would begin the process of weeding out inefficient and unnecessary K–12 education programs.” Hunter stated:
It’s time to trim the fat. Today I will introduce legislation that will eliminate—not consolidate, not defund, but eliminate—43 wasteful K–12 education programs. At a time when approximately one-third of American fourth graders can’t read, we must concentrate on education initiatives that have a track record of putting the needs of students first.”
Chairman Kline, a supporter of Hunter’s proposal, said today:
Clearly, the problem isn’t how much money we spend on education, but how we’re spending it—and right now, far too many taxpayer dollars are dedicated to ineffective, redundant K–12 programs. Rep. Hunter’s legislation will reduce the federal role in education and help set the stage for increased flexibility on the state and local level.
Representative Hunter, Chairman Kline, and conservatives in Congress are trying to reduce the federal footprint that has become far too heavy on local schools. There are more than 80 programs operated under No Child Left Behind—many duplicative, many ineffective. Hunter’s proposal would eliminate 43 wasteful programs and commence the process of streamlining the Department of Education.
In all, there are more than 150 education programs operated by the Department of Education. To begin restoring fiscal sanity to the department, many programs should be eliminated, and others should be consolidated. This would better target resources to the schools and students who are most in need and would start devolving dollars and decision making to state and local leaders.
The federal burden on school leaders as a result of the numerous programs has been a distraction for local school leaders, who must worry about compliance with regulations rather than educating children. The programs have also failed to improve educational outcomes for nearly a half-century. The Education and Workforce Committee is taking a long-overdue and important step toward ensuring that taxpayer dollars are wisely used and education is serving its most important constituencies—students, parents, and taxpayers—not bureaucrats.