The Federal Miseducation of America's Children
Report by Betty Sakai
Passionate about parental choice and parental rights, Dr. Alger spoke on a matter of extreme importance to parents of school-age children. She reviewed her book published in 2016: failure, The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children [title written in Common Core vernacular]. The Conservative Forum’s Vice President of Programs, Erika Ammirati, wowed the audience by introducing Dr. Alger as part of the Trump transition team.
It all began about one-hundred fifty (150) years ago. To explain, Dr. Alger said that in 1867 a Democrat, a lawyer, a teacher and President of the Illinois State Board of Education, and Illinois Representative Samuel Moulton proposed that Congress create a Federal Department of Education to fund, control and regulate education in the states. Although the Constitution confers no power upon the federal government to govern education in states, attorney and Democrat Samuel Moulton of Illinois disregarded Constitutional law and argued that Congress should create a Department of Education. Dr. Alger in her presentation examined the Department of Education, discussed how we got there, and more importantly how we can free ourselves from it.
Dr. Alger provided many facts and statistics, going into greater detail in her book. Recently, in January 2017 an L. A. Times article written by a Dartmouth Professor stated that the Department of Education serves political, not educational interests and recommended the department be eliminated. The 2016 Republican Party Platform described the Department of Education as having created immense damage and having no role in education. As theorized by President Reagan, education can be funded by public voucher scholarships, by privately funded tuition tax credits, or by Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that provide parents flexibility. Dr. Alger cheered recent news that Republican Representative Thomas Massie from Kentucky introduced in the House in February 2017, HR899 – a bill to terminate the Department of Education on December 31, 2018. Conservatives, she exclaimed, must get behind this and contact their State Representatives and tell them to vote YES on HR899.
After three (3) decades, the Federal Department of Education failed to improve student performance. Costs have increased bureaucratically many billions of dollars. By closing the department’s various subdivisions, Dr. Alger estimated there would be enough money to provide a $3,600 Educational Savings Account (ESA) for every kindergarten child in America. Answering the question of possible fraudulent use of ESA funds, Dr. Alger said quarterly reporting is required. Fraud occasionally happens but parents who don’t follow the rules lose their right to have an ESA. How ESA works: A parent wishing to enroll their child in other than a public school applies for an ESA and receives credit for 90% of the money normally provided to educate a child in a public school. The payout is quarterly as the parent submits quarterly reports. Rules and permitted expenses are detailed in the ESA Handbook given to the parent. At the end of each school year, any remaining funds roll over to the following year. By the end of high school, any funds remaining can be applied to tuition for trade school or college.
Asked about the difference between charter and public schools, Dr. Alger explained that public district schools are governed by an elected School Board that must follow the state’s Ed Code. Teachers in public district schools are required to pay part of their salary into the Teachers Union even though they may chose not be union members. Charter schools are public schools governed by the parents and teachers in that school, without the restrictions of the Ed Code. Other types of schools are parochial, private, and home-schooling. All schools would be eligible to receive all or a portion of their tuition and costs from vouchers, tax credits, or ESAs. Returning controls to local management would restore billions of dollars. Taxpayers in states would take control and the process would become straight forward in a free market. Dr. Alger applauded Nevada for having the best ESA program where all children are eligible. Arizona allows parents to choose, has top ranking high schools, and spends $2,200 less per student than California. African-Americans in 4th to 8th grade in Arizona score high in math and reading.
Historically, in 1642 the Massachusetts Bay Colony created the first compulsory education law in the English speaking world. Over the years, Congress passed ordinances and acts but did not move to control education in states. The reason, Dr. Alger explained, is that the word ‘education’ does not occur in the U.S. Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution gives the federal government control or jurisdiction over education in states. So why did the federal government in 1867 create a department that Congress has no Constitutional authority to create? Where did ( where does) the power exist intended by the framers of this Republic for the three branches in the federal government (Legislative, Judicial, Executive) to balance and keep each other in check?
Many feel confused about civil law versus constitutional law. Although civil law can be changed by precedence, the Constitution can be changed only by Amendment. The precedence of legislation passed by Congress does not change the U.S. Constitution.
Dr. Alger outlined the mandates of the Dept of Education: (1) to increase student achievement, (2) to supplement -- not supplant -- state and local governments, and (3) to improve management and efficiency of federal education programs. She laughed heartily at point #3. The fact is, achievement across the board has been flat since the 1970s. Huge sums have been spent for squarely average performance. Our Republic’s founding fathers never intended for the federal government to be a partner with states in education.
Like clockwork, Dr. Alger sighed, every eight (8) years an incoming President proposes another political miracle cure for education. In 1979 President Carter made the U.S. Department of Education a cabinet level office…which ended up after thirty (30) years as Common Core in all but four (4) states. Trying to correct the mistake, trying to get rid of the Department of Education, President Reagan in 1982 attempted to replace “Carter’s bureaucratic boondoogle” with a smaller Foundation for Education Assistance, but Congress refused to go along.
Congress has passed many bills. A complete chronological listing is available in Dr. Alger’s book. To list a few, in 1965 the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) increased federal control over education through tax-based grants -- reauthorized in 1970, 1972, 1974, 1978, and 2015 despite evidence that funds are misspent and students are achieving the lowest possible SAT scores in twenty (20) years. In 1975 Congress enacted the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) providing education for students with disabilities. In 1984 the Republican Party eliminated abolishing the Department of Education from its platform. In 2001 George W. Bush introduced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that expanded Clinton’s ESEA authorization. In 2008 the Department of Education released a report that called student performance “a national shame” concluding “we are at great risk”. During the No Child Left Behind era, the Department of Education’s administrative burden increased by 65% -- greater than the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Justice. A state’s management burden was so great that the majority of new hires dealt solely with the mandates of the Department of Education.
In 2009 President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Investment Act (ARRA), a $4.25 billion multi-state grant program to adopt K-12 standards. By 2010 the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act made the Department of Education the sole college student loan lender. In 2011, President Obama without Congressional approval exempted states from certain mandates including proficiency standards in exchange for adopting Common Core. The cost to administer Common Core has been immense and only 6% of programs have been found to be effective… and this is a very generous assessment, added Dr. Alger.
Many public voucher programs, privately financed tuition tax credit programs, and ESA programs now exist in many states. Arizona in 2011 became the first state to enact tuition tax credits. California in 2010 became the first state to empower parents to convert failing public district schools into public charter schools. Questioned about problems for poor children getting into private schools, Dr. Alger answered that the free marketplace provides opportunities. It is not uncommon for schools to expand facilities as applications increase. Nothing should prevent a parent from applying to the best school their child is able to attend. Parents will be in control, not politicians or bureaucrats. As regards the concern that federal money will not be available to fund poor districts, Dr. Alger said relying on federal funds is not realistic. Federal funding represents only about ten (10) cents of every dollar spent by states on education and that money is wrapped in mandates.
She concluded her presentation by stating that it’s time to reject the notion historically that the federal government has played a valued role in education. For the sake of our children, it’s time to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. The Forum audience thanked Dr. Alger with standing applause. The information she had provided is important to every parent.
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