Is the Department of Education Doomed?

The Department of Education has many supporters. None of them, however, are currently running to become the Republican candidate for president in the 2012 election. All of the Republican candidates have shown an outspoken hostility to the Department of Education. While their positions have varied over the years, success by a Republican in 2012 could mean disaster for the department.

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Shut It Down?

Many of the Republican presidential candidates have stated that they want to shut down the Department of Education. Texas Governor Rick Perry and Representatives Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul all want the department eliminated. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich want its powers and funding to be crippled. Mitt Romney has wavered, but at times has joined the chorus who want it shuttered.

Most of the candidates justify their position by saying that the federal government shouldn't have a role in educating children. While supporters of the department argue that it's in the nation's interest to support education and provide meaningful standards for schools, the candidates disagree. For example, Gingrich thinks current federal students loans should be privatized. His argument stems from a belief that the government ought not to help fund college educations.

No Child Left Behind

Much of the ire the Republicans have for the federal government's role in education is symbolized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. In many ways, the law has come be viewed as the federal government's intrusion into the rights of the states. Perry has called it a 'direct assault on federalism' and he's rejected curriculum standards that almost every state has adopted. As a way of voicing his displeasure, when Jon Huntsman was governor of Utah, he signed a law into effect that gave Utah's education standards priority over the standards laid out in No Child Left Behind.

A New Extreme

The animosity towards No Child Left Behind is also symbolic of how the Republican field has swung to an extreme both quickly and almost paradoxically. The law was originally championed by George W. Bush, the most recent Republican president, who only left office three years ago. Bush heavily campaigned on the idea of the law and Rick Santorum even voted for it.

Despite Rick Perry's current stance, he boasted in 2002 that the national law was modeled on Texas' plan. He also proudly acknowledged the approximately $400 million in new federal funding that Texas would receive under the law. Fewer than ten years later, he and his fellow candidates claim that they want nothing to do with federal money.

Republican opposition to the Department of Education has a long history. When the department was formed, during the Carter administration, many conservatives argued against it. But depending on the political tide, they've supported it, sometimes strongly, as evidenced by what occurred during the Bush administration. Today, though, their positions are far more radical and potentially catastrophic for the department. Though the tide may shift again, all of the current Republican candidates, if elected, would seek to decimate federal education programs in America.

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