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The Department of Education faces possible abolishment

(Photo courtesy of Community College Daily) “U.S. Department of Education building.”

Steven O’Hara
Connector Editor

In the wake of recent political tensions in the United States, Republican leaders and Republican presidential candidates have brought up a familiar proposition: the abolishment of the Department of Education. This has been especially pervasive in current political ideology as the 2024 election approaches. 

The Department of Education, established in 1979, acts as the official governmental sector that deals with assisting schools and students in the United States. Their primary goals include ensuring equal access to education, promoting the increase for quality of education, improving federal education programs throughout the country and more. 

The Department of Education also provides valuable statistical resources to schools and resources to teachers across the country. Dr. Hilary Lustick, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said, “The Department of Education puts out guidance on various issues that support school districts implement programs in ways that serve all students equitably. They are the only source of national data on trends related to special education, disability classification, and school discipline. This means that, without them tracking these trends, there would be no nationwide source for identifying inequality in these statistics, or studying them.” 

Certain political objections against the necessity of this department comes from the goal of decentralizing government. The overarching reason for this would be to give families the control to decide what their children are learning. The goal would be to put education in the hands of parents instead of having federal control over what is being taught in schools. 

If education was deregulated on a federal level, education quality and content would vary by state. However, many citizens would like to have more say in what is being taught to their students; many groups who are oriented to this goal have been formed. “[I]t is crucial that we not allow parent advocacy groups to dictate what happens to our federal governing bodies. Let’s look at what these groups have done so far, the statewide book bans that Moms for Liberty championed are absolutely an infringement on freedom of speech,” said Dr. Lustick. “The parent advocacy groups that are pushing for this are indeed striving to censor others based on their values.” 

The abolishment of the Department of Education wouldn’t just affect students and parents, but also educators working in the United States. Even the concerns of its possible abolishment have been raised by teachers across the country. “[I]n certain states (Texas and Florida) the shifting political climate toward “parent rights” is effectively leading to unprecedented levels of censorship in terms of what students can learn and read,” Said Dr. Lustick. “People in these states who want to eliminate the DOE see it as the pinnacle of everything they are trying to eliminate, and believe if they eliminate it, they will somehow be able to proliferate the ideology and laws in their states to the entire country. But it does not work that way. Despite its title, the DOE is not actually as central as you might think. It sets standards for assessment, but beyond that, it is mostly a body that helps track data and makes recommendations.” 

However, Dr. Lustick does not believe that the Department of Education will be eliminated anytime soon. This goal has been one Republicans have aimed at for a long time and has never been accomplished. “This is something Republicans have actually wanted to do since the Reagan era and haven’t succeeded. It would need to [go] through all of Congress, which would take forever if it were even possible. I’m not saying it can’t possibly happen…just that I think there are more pressing risks at stake in this next presidential election, including with regards to education,” Said Dr. Lustick.  

Although many political figures and candidates deem this abolishment a necessity to the future of education, this change would be more of a detriment than an advantage. Trying to restrict education through the form of decentralizing it will only harm the education provided across the country.  “Together, these restrictions render future citizens underprepeared for their role in our democracy,” Said Dr. Lustick. “They limit our ability to understand each other and keep us painfully divided. We have to ask ourselves: whose power is such neglect and division protecting? I believe it is protecting dominant forces of power that are threatened by the idea of non-White, non-heterosexual, non-cisgender, non-Christian, non-able-bodied people unapologetically living and thriving.” 

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