Education Opinion

Dept. of Education as Alleged Villain

By Walt Gardner — January 11, 2017 1 min read
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The Department of Education has been the subject of controversy since it was created by former President Jimmy Carter. But its existence is in greater jeopardy today than ever before (“For better schools, abolish the politicized Department of Education and give local districts more control,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 9).

The argument for its abolishment is that towns and cities are less ideological and more pragmatic than Washington D.C. They know what isn’t working, and can quickly respond. There is truth to this, but I wonder if local control isn’t as politicized. Don’t forget it was local control that allowed segregated schools to persist for decades. By the same token, it is local control that is responsible for the crazyquilt system of standards now in place.

Nations noted for the quality of their schools have national standards overseen by a version of our Department of Education. I acknowledge that these countries are far more homogeneous than the U.S. But I don’t think we will ever be in a position to compete if we let education to be controlled only by towns and cities. It’s how the Department of Education operates rather than its mere existence that should be the focus of the debate.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.