From the DoE website:

Although the Department is a relative newcomer among Cabinet-level agencies, its origins goes back to 1867, when President Andrew Johnson signed legislation creating the first Department of Education. Its main purpose was to collect information and statistics about the nation’s schools. However, due to concern that the Department would exercise too much control over local schools, the new Department was demoted to an Office of Education in 1868.

Over the years, the office remained relatively small, operating under different titles and housed in various agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Interior and the former U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services).

Beginning in the 1950s, political and social changes resulted in expanded federal funding for education. The successful launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik in 1957 spurred nationwide concern that led to increased aid for science education programs. The 1960s saw even more expansion of federal education funding: President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” called for the creation of many programs to improve education for poor students at all levels—early childhood through postsecondary. This expansion continued in the 1970s with national efforts to help racial minorities, women, people with disabilities and non-English speaking students gain equal access to education. In October 1979, Congress passed the Department of Education Organization Act (Public Law 96-88). Created by combining offices from several federal agencies, the Department began operations in May 1980.

In the 1860s, a budget of $15,000 and four employees handled education fact-finding. By 1965, the Office of Education had more than 2,100 employees and a budget of $1.5 billion. As of mid-2010, the Department has nearly 4,300 employees and a budget of about $60 billion.

In 1868, there was concern that the DoE would exert too much control over local schools, so it was demoted to an “Office of Education” with four employees and a budget of $15,000. It was made into a cabinet level department in 1979, under Jimmy Carter. Since then, it has grown to 4,300 employees and a $60 billion budget. It now issue orders to local schools encompassing everything from curriculum to what they must serve for lunch. I would say that the fears of “too much control over local schools” was well founded.

It’s well past time to get rid of the Department of Education. There is no reason for this bloated department to make decisions for each state and how it will run its schools. You can’t say that test scores are any better or worse, because it is impossible to know. There is no way to measure performance of students in 1979 and compare it to now. Tests that were taken by students have been changed several times over the years, so that it is impossible to determine whether or not students today are any better or worse off than counterparts from other time periods.


D · June 29, 2023 at 8:40 am

Not to mention, if we abolish the DOE we’ve got another $60,000,000,000 we can send to Ukraine. 😉

Joe Blow · June 29, 2023 at 9:01 am

It’ll never happen, but, good GOD what an agency that needs to go?
Unequivocally our system has seriously degraded since the creation of the department.

    Nemo · June 30, 2023 at 1:25 pm

    The fact that school test scores for all grades have shown steady, inexorable decline since DOE became a cabinet level position should be reason enough to disband it. School administration and test scoring should be monitored at the local/state level with no interference by the feds who have shown repeatedly that they don’t know what they’re doing. Examples: new math and doing away with phonics. Then they wonder why kids can’t do basic math or read when they get to high school and college, all foisted on our schools by D Ed’s that somehow think that what worked for several hundred years was passe.

    There’s another compelling factor. Teachers Unions should also be disbanded along with all public employee unions. Oh, you don’t like the pay, benefits package and golden retirement with 10 weeks a year off, along with all federal and state holidays while being paid? Go work in the public sector and don’t let the door hit you stupid ass on the way there.

    Not to mention, with few exceptions, the dumbest college students are the ones who end up in “education”.

Bad Dancer · June 29, 2023 at 10:41 am

How would you begin dismantling a beast like this? From your time as an educator inside that particular critter I would love any input on actions that could be done locally. Every time I speak up at a school board meeting or city council meeting I’m talked down by teachers who say I can’t possibly understand the issues due to not being “in the trenches” like them.

The locals here have never seen a school tax levy they haven’t approved and yet after a decade of living here the only difference I’ve seen is the school district is able to afford newer and nicer fleet cars for their staff and the administration building keeps moving to larger and larger offices. Can’t keep teachers but the head shed has two secretaries making more than first year teachers for her busy schedule.

SiG · June 29, 2023 at 11:56 am

One of the things to bear in mind is that with a constantly inflating fiat currency, today’s $60 billion is about 20x the number of dollars it would have been before we dropped the gold standard for the last time. Granted that $3 billion is still way beyond the $15,000, but in perspective to the $1.5 billion in 1965, $3b isn’t as shocking as $60.

I’m not saying the DoE doesn’t need to be trashed. After all, as the saying goes, the Department of Education hasn’t educated a single person in all of its history. Along with trashing the DoE, pretty much every agency of the could be cut by 90% or eliminated with no ill effects.

Grumpy51 · June 29, 2023 at 9:38 pm

While it is NOT scientific and may have ZERO applicability, the ability of people today to successfully pass the 8th grade exams from the early 1900s —

And before I get flamed, I realize the Huffington Post isn’t exactly trustworthy, but…..

Aesop · June 30, 2023 at 3:49 am

Tests that were taken by students have been changed several times over the years, so that it is impossible to determine whether or not students today are any better or worse off than counterparts from other time periods.

As Dwight on The Office would say: “FALSE.”

Simply take an SAT from 1978, and give to today’s juniors and seniors, under the same conditions as 1978, and after 1000-2000 examples selected for exact statistically demographic representation for race and region, you’ll have a portrait, accurate to within 1-2 percentage points, of how stupid today’s kids are since we got the DoEd.
I’m guessing the average student today would score somewhere in the 20th percentile compared to students from 1978, although the Asian kids would likely drag the curve upward.

Ditching this political abortion would be an immediate savings of $60B, with no loss of function nor diminution of government abilities.

But even Reagan couldn’t pull it off, and he didn’t try very hard.
Start by detailing the Pentagon to destroy their infrastructure, and then round up survivors.
We could probably get rid of it in a week or two, but they’d put up a helluva fight.

Toastrider · June 30, 2023 at 8:49 am

The most I’d tolerate out of a Dept. of Education would be as a clearinghouse and standardization office to make sure a qualification from one state transferred properly to another (and if one state did not recognize another’s qualifications, find out why).

And I’m being generous here.

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