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Which GOP Presidential Candidates Want to Abolish the Education Department?

By Alyson Klein — October 19, 2015 3 min read
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Over the weekend, Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, floated the possibility of scrapping the U.S. Department of Education. Getting rid of the department has been a conservative rallying cry since, well, the agency’s inception back in 1980.

And even though it’s really hard to scrap the department (for reasons outlined in this story), it’s still a popular talking point this election season.

Some Republican White House contenders (Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, to name two) want to get rid of the department entirely, while others (Ohio Gov. John Kasich) just want to slim it down.

Who stands where? We break it down:

Get Rid of the Education Department (or at Least Seriously Consider It)

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: Has said repeatedly that if he’s elected, he would like to abolish the U.S. Department of Education.

Carly Fiorina, former CEO: Named the U.S. Department of Education as an agency she would consider eliminating in an interview this month with MSNBC. She said the department has “spent more money each and every year and the quality of education has continued to deteriorate. That would seem to be at odds with her stance as a candidate for Senate in California, when she praised the goals of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Has called for getting rid of the Education Department.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky: Has said repeatedly that if he’s elected, he’ll move to scrap the Education Department.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: Said at a campaign stop in September that he “honestly think[s] we don’t need an Education Department.” Some of its functions—like overseeing the student loan program—could be transferred to other agencies.

Donald Trump, real estate mogul: Said this weekend he’d consider getting rid of the department. Has described the U.S. Department of Education as a “massive behemoth.” If he’s elected, he said he would take a close look at whether to eliminate it or slim it down, he said at a South Carolina campaign stop. He’s also talked about cutting the department “way way down.”

Slim It Down

Ohio Gov. John Kasich: Has called for overhauling the department so that it just operates four major block grant programs, but it doesn’t appear that he wants to get rid of the agency entirely.

Put a Twist on It

Ben Carson, neurosurgeon: Hasn’t called for eliminating the Education Department. But he has proposed a new role for it: Monitoring institutions of higher education for political bias.

Hasn’t Explicitly Called for Scrapping the Ed. Dept.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: Has never floated the possibility of eliminating the department. But he does think states should be a major engine of education redesign.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: His education platform has emphasized steps like revamping teacher tenure and expanding charter schools, not getting rid of the U.S. Department of Education.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: This one could be in a category of its own, “tough to call.” Graham hasn’t talked much about eliminating the Education Department in years. But back in the ‘90s, he was on the House education committee as it tried to dismantle the department. Later, though, he campaigned on his role in helping to broker the No Child Left Behind Act.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Has focused on school choice and opposition to Common Core, not on eliminating the department.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki: Has said he opposes the Common Core State Standards, but doesn’t appear to have called for eliminating the Education Department.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: Santorum’s edu-emphasis seems to be in knocking down the common-core standards, not getting rid of the Education Department. (He did say recently he wants to eliminate the State Department, however.)

Did we miss anything? Anyone seem to be in the wrong category? Email me at, or hit up the comments section.

Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

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