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Can Betsy DeVos make things any worse?

Though the United States has had an Office of Education dating back to 1865, the federal Department of Education as we now know it was not formed until 1980. Federal interest in education blossomed under President Lyndon Johnson’s failed War on Poverty which has never been won and will not be won no matter how many taxpayer dollars are spent on it. President Jimmy Carter formed the current federal education department in 1980, combining several smaller departments. The original education budget was $140 million. In the ensuing years, that department has grown to about 4400 employees and has a budget of some $70 billion. The ‘˜about’ page of the department’s website has not been updated since 2010 (what?). It notes the department ‘establishes policy for, administers and coordinates most federal assistance to education. It assists the president in executing his education policies for the nation and in implementing laws enacted by Congress. The Department’s mission is to serve America’s students – to promoted student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.’ I wonder how much of the education budget was spent on think tanking that mission statement? Meanwhile, as you have no doubt guessed, our worldwide education ranking has plummeted. In 2016, we were ranked 14th behind (in order from #1) South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, Poland (drop the jokes), Denmark, Germany and, yes, Russia. One could argue we spend that $70 billion for mediocrity. Of course, this is not the only example of big bureaucracies spending big money and producing poor results. That example fits all across Amercian government which really runs nothing well. Fast forward to the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Vice President Mike Pence had to cast the tiebreaking vote to get her approved 51-50 but she is now on the job. Millions were spent to stop her and, yes, she gave some bizarre answers at the hearings but there were two major arguments against DeVos. She is pro school choice and there are forces out there that want students confined to public schools no matter how badly they perform. DeVos was also targeted because she and her husband are billionaires. God knows we should never appoint someone who has been independently successful in their lives when there are no doubt many bureaucrats from the $70 billion monolith who would have gladly taken the job and gladly propagated the monolith. I talked about this with the principal of an area high school (not in Lamar or Pike counties). That principal told me massive amounts of paperwork are required for the receipt of about $140,000 for the school in question. That money can be used for things like metal detectors at the door of the school gym but not to enhance the education experience for students who are displaying excellence in the classroom. Does that sound right to you? Can Betsy DeVos make things any worse? Here’s hoping the Department of Education’s budget is pared down drastically and control of schools is returned to where it belongs – local school boards. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette and Pike County Journal Reporter.

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