On 7 February 2017, Kentucky lawmaker Thomas Massie announced that he had written an eight-word bill that proposes the elimination of the federal Department of Education. The bill reads, in its entirety:
The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.
In a statement released to the media, Massie advocated leaving education up to parents, teachers, and local leaders:
Massie said, “Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn.”
Massie added, “Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students. Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school.”
“For years, I have advocated returning education policy to where it belongs – the state and local level,” said Rep. Walter Jones, an original co-sponsor. “D.C. bureaucrats cannot begin to understand the needs of schools and its students on an individual basis. It is time that we get the feds out of the classroom, and terminate the Department of Education.”
“I’ve always been a proponent of empowering parents, teachers and local school boards who best know our children and their needs,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, another original co-sponsor. “Eliminating the U.S. Department of Education is the most important step we in Congress can take in returning decision making to the local level.”
That such a bill comes from Massie, a United States representative from Kentucky, is not particularly surprising, as he tends to champion small government. Efforts to abolish the federal Education Department (which was founded by President Jimmy Carter in 1979) are also not new for the Republican Party:
Massie and his co-sponsors are not the first to call for an end to the Education Department. During his 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan recommended that the department — then about a year old — be abolished, but by the beginning of his second term, he abandoned the plan because of heated resistance from Congress.
Other Republican leaders, including Trump, have spearheaded campaigns and pushed platforms which angled on eliminating or slashing funding to the Education Department. During his unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign, Former Texas governor and current Energy Secretary Rick Perry also said he’d eliminate the Education Department.
Perhaps the most coordinated of such pushes was packaged in the 1996 Republican party platform. “Our formula is as simple as it is sweeping: the federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the workplace,” the platform read. “That is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning.”
Massie also supports efforts to do away with the Environmental Protection Agency and for the U.S. to withdraw from the United Nations. However, given that the Senate confirmed a Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) on 7 February 2017, they appear to be in no real rush to dismantle the agency.