- In 2012 we ranked #29 in math.
- That meant that 64% of our 8th graders couldn’t do the problems in their book.
- Also that year we ranked #22 in science.
- We were #19 in reading.
- By 2013 we ranked #36 in reading.
- In 2015 just 29% of Americans thought their education system was the best in the world.
- That year saw 35 other countries doing math better than us.
- 26 other countries were doing science better than us.
The federal government has been meddling in education since 1867.
It wasn’t until Jimmy Carter came along that those efforts were consolidated into one cabinet-level department.
When the Department of Education was created in 1980 it had a budget of $12 billion.
Since then we’ve given a lot more of your tax money to the feds so they can launder it back down to the states.
When you do it this way, a lot more people can get their hand in the pot, either when the money’s moving up to the feds or when it’s filtering back down to the states.
We could just keep that money in the state, or even in local communities, but that smacks of efficiency.
So it was that in 2015 the Department of Education had a budget of $67 billion.
Here’s an idea of where that money goes:
They gave out $27 billion of that in grants.
Most of that is in the form of federal student loans.
We know that up to 85% of college students have used federal student loans over the past decade.
I used the hell out of them, myself, racking-up $30,000 in student loan debt by the time I finally got my degree.
And let’s face it – without that federal aid, many young people wouldn’t be able to go to college.
State student loan aid has gone up by about 11% over the past decade while federal aid has gone up about 22%.
Student loans aren’t the only thing the Department of Education does.
A few years ago the Department of Education gave nearly $25 million to 67 different school districts spread over 26 states so that they could reduce behavior referrals via counseling programs.
Is that a waste of your tax money?
I guess it depends on how you look at it.
- On the one hand you’re spending money to deal with misbehaving students, students that should probably be disciplined by their parents so the school doesn’t have to deal with it. That’s not happening, however.
- On the other hand you’re spending money to deal with behavior issues now, before students get out of control, stop putting an effort forth to learn, disrupt others’ learning, and eventually drop out before winding up in our criminal justice system.
When you look at it like that, the $25 million the feds spent might end up saving us hundreds of millions down the road.
It all depends on how you want to look at it.
Many look at the $25 million the Department of Education gave to the Twin Cities PBS stations to make science-themed TV shows for kids and they see a waste of money.
They ask, ‘is it the government’s job to do that?’
Maybe it’s not, but if they don’t do it, who will…and is that such a bad thing?
Why is it the government’s job to educate your kids via after school TV shows that your kids might not even be watching?
I asked Jackie Brown about the Department of Education over on his site, The Western Word.
We pretty much established that he’s not sure what the Department of Education does, that education in America probably functioned better before the Department was created, and that his life won’t change at all over the next few years because of actions taken by the Department.
I think most Americans view the Department about the same way Jackie does – not at all, really.
They don’t think about it, talk about it, and it doesn’t affect their lives.
Sure, many will say that it impacts them in ways unseen, like those TV shows that filter into young minds and years later spur them to become scientists and engineers.
Many, however, will not.
Most people just do not care.
It’s why life has gone after the DeVos vote.
You can read reactions from Montana school administrators here.
Remember, these people oversee the system locally, the same system that’s responsible for our current educational rankings.
“At $11,800 per K-12 student and $25,000 per college student,” Education Week wrote today, “the United States spends more public and private dollars on education than any other country studied.”
And yet we still rank terribly in math, science and reading compared with other countries.
So to get back to the title of this post…’What does the Department of Education do?’
I really couldn’t tell you.