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OPINION

Failed Federal Intervention in American Education

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Advancing the erosion of local control in education with more mandates for equity and social emotional learning, the Biden Administration recently announced two new federal education initiatives. The federal government’s latest attempt to influence local education targets youth summer programs through the U.S. Department of Education and national, private partners.

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Biden’s National Partnership for Student Success and the Engage Every Student Initiative are steeped in “public-private partnerships” with liberal trade associations and national non-profits funded through the U.S. Department of Education and other federal funding.

The National League of Cities partner has a Race, Equity and Leadership program, which last year hosted a forum stating, “Summer 2020 was a season of reckoning for our country. Months of social uprisings left many people in our nation’s cities, towns, and villages reflecting on the contemporary and historical challenges of our time as systems of power and oppression continue to produce inequitable outcomes for us all [emphasis added].”

Another public-private partner funded by the US Department of Education is The National Center whose mission is “to bolster equity [emphasis added] by helping educational systems provide the resources, create the policies, and enact the instructional practices required for all groups of students to learn, grow, and achieve regardless of their identity [emphasis added] and experiences.

Communities in Schools, another federally funded, private partner, states on its website, “To provide every student with equitable [emphasis added] conditions for learning, a focus on the whole child, school climate and social-emotional development [emphasis added] is vital. The effects of income inequality, structural racism [emphasis added], trauma and toxic stress have devastating effects on early brain development.”

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According to information available on partner websites, the most egregious of Biden’s new education initiatives is the National Summer Learning Association,who lists resources on its website with multiple links for social, emotional learning, and links to “Tools for Anti-Racist Teaching,” “Learning For Justice (Southern Poverty Law Center),”The Black Experience — The Course,” and “Racial Equity.”

Despite dramatic increases in federal intervention and funding in the public education system since the 1960s, educational achievement has not improved. The most widely used measure of school achievement are scores from National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which shows no significant change.

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) funds more than 100 subsidy programs, and each comes with regulations that extend federal control into state and local education. The accumulation of federal rules has suppressed innovation, diversity, and competition in state education systems, while generating vast paper-pushing bureaucracies. In fact, state education officials report that most of their staff (in some cases significant majorities) simply oversee and manage federal education programs.

Policy makers seem always on the lookout for the latest thing: the newest innovation that would set the world of education on fire. Yet, in retrospect, it is hard to think of a single program that USED funded that made a lasting contribution to the advancement of education. Most programs supported by USED are designed to serve the students most in need. Nevertheless, the achievement gap between children of differing income levels has increased over the years. Efforts to improve educational outcomes for low-income children have also been expensive and unproductive. Even the federal college grant and loan programs have been ineffective for students.

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Eliminating the US Department of Education can be achieved in 5 simple steps.

1) Send all Program Management and Funding to the states including Pell Grants for college.

2) Repeal all laws permitting federal intervention in K-12 education starting with ESSA.

3) Privatize college loan programs through savings and loan institutions.

4) Eliminate all offices and divisions in the US Department of Education and related spending.

5) Reduce federal tax collection, shifting education revenue responsibilities entirely back to the states.

Although this experiment with federal control of local public schools has gone on for half a century now, it has failed. We need to stop treating children like guinea pigs in some social engineering laboratory and start embracing children as human beings to be supported and inspired to achieve their own dreams and aspirations. 

One organization, US Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), is dedicated to returning education to its proper local roots and restoring parental authority over their children’s education by helping parents and local communities to escape federal and other national influences. This is the key to fighting back against overreaching federal education mandates.

The evidence is inarguable — the federal government’s intervention in education has been a dismal failure and must end.

Sheri Few is the Founder and President of United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) whose mission is to end the US Department of Education and all federal education mandates. USPIE has established 20 state chapters and is growing rapidly amid the national outcry from parents who want to regain control of their children’s education. Few is a nationally recognized leader on education policy and is often quoted in conservative media. Few has spent much of the last year exposing critical race theory and serving as Executive Producer for the new documentary film titled “Truth & Lies in American Education.”

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