Blitzing the Department of Education

Katie Kieffer

3/12/2012 12:01:00 AM - Katie Kieffer

Tim Tebow and I both blitzed the Department of Education; we were both homeschooled. Tebow became the first homeschooler to win the Heisman Trophy and he’s now an NFL starting quarterback. And, as someone who was homeschooled through eighth grade and attended a private high school before graduating from college, I personally know that young people don’t need the federal government running their education.

I think American children and their parents deserve more than an unconstitutional, one-size-fits-all federal education system. I think local governments and individual parents have the constitutional right to decide how and where children go to school. Let’s eliminate the Department of Education.

The Department of Education is unconstitutional because it violates the Tenth Amendment, which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” There is no federal mandate for public education in the Constitution, so no one has a constitutional right to an education subsidized by federal taxpayer dollars.

To be exact, since the Constitution does not mention “education” as a federal function, Congress should have voted to amend the Constitution in order to give the federal government the power to regulate education. Since Congress never amended the Constitution, the federal Department of Education remains unconstitutional.

The Department of Education was initially a minor office within the government. However, President Jimmy Carter decided that he wanted to be in charge of education. So, on October 17, 1979, he signed a law promoting the Department to cabinet-level and placing education under the purview of the executive branch.

Initially, most Republicans understood that Carter’s move was unconstitutional. Carter’s successor, President Reagan, tried to eliminate the Department of Education but the Democrats in Congress blocked him. The CATO Institute reports that in 1996, the GOP’s party platform still included this belief: "The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education."

After Reagan, some Republicans began swerving off the constitutional path. Former President George W. Bush proposed and signed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. This bill helped double the size of the Department of Education and NCLB’s requirements for federal funding effectively seized more authority from States and individuals.

Today, we have a GOP presidential candidate (Rick Santorum) who voted for the No Child Left Behind Act even as he was unwilling to put his own children through the broken public school system. Politicians like Santorum routinely vote for public school funding and then hypocritically send their own children to private schools or tutor them at home. Every politician wants to say he or she cares about educating children, but, at the end of the day, a child’s parents have his or her best interest in mind.

Because the Department of Education is a federal affair, it’s effectively an unjust tax. 33 million Americans (28 percent of all households) live alone, according to 2011 census data. Why should these solo breadwinners be forced to pay for strangers to get an “education?” There are also millions of families who choose to put their children in private schools or homeschool them. How is it just for these families to pay twice—to educate their children and subsidize the neighborhood children?

I think there is a common misconception that people who send their children to private school or homeschool are über-wealthy and can “afford” to pay taxes for other children to go to public school. Growing up, I remember busybodies asking me, “How can your mom afford to stay home?” Later, when I went to a private high school, the snoops would say: “Oh. Wow. That’s so expensive. What does your dad do?”

My parents were not über-wealthy. They sacrificed a great deal and gave up buying new cars and going on big-ticket vacations so that my siblings and I could get the best education possible. Many other homeschooling and private school parents I knew growing up were the exact same way. As a kid, I remember thinking that it was unjust for my parents to sacrifice and work so hard for my education and to subsidize the next-door neighbor boys’ free ride to public school.

I have no problem with public schools that are managed entirely on a local level. Let’s say there’s a town of like-minded people who want to pool their resources together and build a school: They have a town meeting and the majority of residents—including the retirees and single people in the community—are willing to pitch in funds for a public school. The residents are freely vested in the school’s mission and they will spend their collective funds wisely. That kind of public school is fine by me because it’s locally controlled and 100 percent constitutional.

America’s first public school, in fact, was a perfect example of a local (constitutional) public school. Boston Latin School was established in 1635. It had no national element. It had a strong humanitarian curriculum and students learned how to read, write and multiply—not how to put a condom on a banana. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine, attended Boston Latin. (Franklin dropped out before graduating.)

It costs taxpayers over $10,000 per year to educate the average public school student. For zero cost to the state and under $1,000 a year to themselves, parents can educate their child at home and the child will probably have better academic test scores. Last month, USA Today analyzed a 2009 National Home Education Research Institute study revealing that homeschooled students score higher than public school students by an of average of 37 percentile points.

So, besides the fact that the Department of Education is unconstitutional, there is no evidence that more money and federal control invariably produce smarter children. My brother is in medical school now and he was homeschooled through sixth grade.

Some of America’s most successful people were successful precisely because they avoided the federal education system at some point. People like: Tim Tebow, Jason Taylor, Bode Miller, Venus and Serena Williams, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, Claude Monet, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, Robert Frost, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Andrew Carnegie and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Let’s help children, parents and taxpayers regain their constitutional freedom. Let’s blitz the Department of Education.