Rick Hess has some tough questions for GOP presidential candidates who favor abolishing the Department of Education:
- It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere). So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?
- Do you intend to push to eliminate federal funding for special education? If not, who will be responsible for ensuring that states and districts spend those tax dollars in accord with statute? If yes, how will you argue the case to families with children enrolled in special education?
- Do you aim to eliminate the Pell grants and student loans that make up the lion’s share of ED’s activity? If you don’t intend to eliminate them, who will be charged with administering and policing them? If you do, how will you make the case to millions of families and students that use them?
- Do you hope to eliminate Title I funding for schools serving low-income students? If not, who will be responsible for ensuring those dollars are spent in accord with statute? If so, how will you justify cutting federal aid for the neediest students?
- Practically speaking, you know that special education and student lending are popular, with influential, outspoken, middle-class constituencies. How will you convince Congress to go along if you intend to eliminate these programs?
- If you don’t intend to zero out federal K-12 spending, do you hope to turn it into a giant block grant? If so, will you seek to eliminate rules requiring that federal Title I aid and special aid funds be spent on low-income children or those with special needs?
There are no easy answers to any of these questions. There are, however, correct answers. It would be interesting to see how well the candidates scoring cheap rhetorical points by promising to abolish the Department of Education (a worthwhile goal) could field these questions.