Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Throwback: When a New Administration Tried to Dismantle the Ed. Dept.

By Alyson Klein — September 07, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If Donald Trump, the real-estate mogul turned GOP nominee, is elected president we might see a push to abolish the U.S. Department of Education.

If that happens, it wouldn’t be the first time an incoming administration set its sights on getting rid of 400 Maryland Ave.

Thirty-five years ago this week, in its very first issue, Education Week published details of a tightly guarded memo, written by U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, that concluded that the “Federal Government does not have responsibility for education.” (Bell was GOP President Ronald Reagan’s first education secretary.)

The memo, which came out when Reagan had been in office less than a year, proposed a big shift of authority over programs, regulations, and financial management back to states. And it called for transferring some of the Education Department’s functions to other agencies.

For instance, the memo suggested, the U.S. Treasury could take over the Pell Grant program.

The goal: to reverse a 25-year “sea change in the relations of government and education” that has resulted in “an overly intrusive federal role.”

Those sentiments would be music to the ears of a potential Trump administration ... maybe.

Trump, who hasn’t sketched out a comprehensive plan on K-12 education, has said he’d like to eliminate the Education Department, or at least “cut it way, way down.” (More on his education positions, and how they stack up against those of his his rival, Hillary Clinton’s, here.) For what it’s worth, he’s also said that education is one of the three most important functions of the federal

government.

That lack of clarity hasn’t stopped Clinton’s allies, from using the Republican contender’s anti-Education Department pitch against him. The Center for American Progress Action Fund, which is affiliated with a think tank close to the Obama administration, outlined a sort of worst-case scenario of what getting rid of the department might mean.

Its analysis, which assumes that none of the department’s programs or responsibilities would wind up on other agencies’ plates, warns that 490,000 teaching positions could be eliminated, for example.

For the record, though, it’s really, really hard to get rid of the Education Department. Numerous attemps have been made, to no avail.

Back in 1981, for example, Bell’s memo was sent to the White House, stirred up some controversy ... but never came to fruition.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP