Close the Department of Education
By Vin Suprynowicz
For all practical purposes, the federal Department of Education operates no schools, and educates no children.
Public schooling in this country got along just fine -- some would say it got along much better -- for more than a century before the federal department was created in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter as a patronage reward for the support shown the Democratic party by teachers unions and the rest of the "education establishment" in 1976.
Now, more than 20 years later, the federal department gathers in $44.5 billion per year, supposedly doling out these tax dollars to state and local school districts to "help" in many areas.
In fact, all those moneys came out of local school districts in the first place -- since that's where the taxpayers live. The real effect of passing these funds through central government control (minus handling charges -- imagine getting your drinking water by running a leaky hose from your kitchen sink to Washington and back) is to give the federal department -- and the public employee unions that control it -- the power to control local school boards and school systems, by constantly holding over their heads the threat of "withdrawal" of these funds.
Most taxpaying parents in this nation still imagine they're the bosses, since they pay the bills. In fact, the opposite is increasingly true. Rare is the local school board that dares defy the federal DOE. The tables are now so far turned that teachers -- our hired servants -- even have the power to recommend children be removed from homes for an increasing range of non-conformist parental behaviors (gun ownership, declining to "volunteer" kids for immunizations known to cause death and permanent brain damage) creatively redefined as "child abuse." Here in Nevada, there's even a serious proposal now working its way through the Legislature that would allow teachers to issue "report cards" in which they would grade parents.
It is in this context that we must view the April 3 visit of the federal Education Department's chief inspector before Congress. Lorraine Lewis told the House Education investigations subcommittee her department lost nearly half a billion dollars in the past three years to waste, fraud and errors. Her audit found 21 cases in which grant checks, totaling $250 million, were issued twice to the same recipients.
The audit also found that, of 676 employee government credit card statements reviewed, 141 statements -- with purchases valued at nearly $1 million -- were not signed by a supervisor. Several of the purchases included items that could be used for personal use, including computers.
Department policy lists computers as items that shouldn't be purchased with the credit cards. About 230 employees had government credit cards in their names. Most had charge limits of $10,000 per month, but two were allowed to charge up to $300,000 per month.
"In many ways it starts to look like a Third World republic that we're dealing with here," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.
Congress has been scrutinizing the department's books since learning last year of a pair of theft schemes which diverted $3 million intended for children who live on Indian reservations and military bases. In another case, six department employees pleaded guilty to stealing $1 million in equipment and to falsely reporting overtime.
The standard answer to such tip-of-the-iceberg revelations is: "So you found a few bad apples; that doesn't mean we throw out the whole barrel."
In fact, the very purpose of the federal DOE is poisonous to crucial, local, parental control over our children's education, as well as over taxation and government in general. It's an asylum over which the inmates have had control from Day One. Better to dub it the Department of Stifling Central Control Over the Youth Propaganda Camps.
Once again, the government schools -- for good or ill, and I'm on record as saying they should all be dynamited as soon as we can get the kids out -- were already in place when the DOE was formed ... and had been for 100 years. The federal DOE was not necessary to establish any schools or to educate any children, and has never done either.
When we hand $44 billion per year to paper-shufflers and educrats with no purpose but to expand and protect their own bureaucratic empires, waste and fraud are not merely an unfortunate side effect -- they're the name of the game, the agency's very raison d'etre.
Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980 on a promise to close the federal Department of Education. It's time -- long past time -- for someone to keep that promise.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter by sending $72 to Privacy Alert, 1475 Terminal Way, Suite E for Easy, Reno, NV 89502. His book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," is available at 1-800-244-2224, or via web site www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.
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