by Fiona Higgins – Staff Reporter
Seemingly without anyone noticing it, a Kentucky lawmaker named Thomas Massie proposed a new bill to Congress that said “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
It is unlikely that an entire federal department could be completely disbanded, but many things have been changing quite suddenly as of late, so it seems like anything is possible at this point. A decision in favor of the bill would leave all educational decisions entirely to individual states, and that could end up being a disaster.
If the Department of Education was terminated, many things would end for public schools. For example, public school lunches currently have to follow a regulated nutritional plan, so students get proper nutrients. Without the Department of Education, these guidelines would disappear; many kids would not get the nutrition required if their particular state decides to change their nutritional guidelines or make an attempt to save money by using less expensive foods.
Another important part of legislation that would vanish would be many protections for disabled students. Right now, schools do their best to try to help students with disabilities by changing their teaching styles for these kids, or helping them find and execute different types of therapies. Kids are provided with paraeducators to help them focus or get one on one teaching, and certain teachers are specially trained in order to be able to teach classes of disabled students. A large part of being able to help disabled kids is a school’s ability to work with these students individually to find what works for them. Without the Department of Education, and by extension Section 504 of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, these protections would become unsupported by federal government, and once again left to the states. Texas and Delaware, marked as “needs intervention” by the Department of Education’s special education rankings, would likely become even worse without these protections due to the lack of federal oversight.
There are many who believe that eliminating the Department of Education would stop the federal government from having to spend so much on education. The idea is that states would fund education instead. However, letting states fund their own educational programs would create uneven learning across the United States. One state may have higher standards for passing or failing than another, and one state may allow creationism to be taught while another may not. Abolishing the Department of Education, while saving money, would create huge inequalities in this country.
Though a bill as short as Massie’s is unlikely to pass, the fact that many lawmakers have come forward over the years wanting to abolish the Department of Education does present the possibility that it may happen. If this bill happens to pass, we would have a whole host of issues that are going to make a very difficult few years for students and parents alike.