Rand Paul’s Candidacy Renews Debate Over Federal Ed Role


Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, and with that, he discussed a number of his views on education, including the need for school choice and an end to the Department of Education and Common Core State Standards.

Republicans have been trying to put an end to the Education Department since it was first introduced in 1979.  The first to try was President Ronald Reagan in 1980, although he was unsuccessful in his efforts.  Instead, a federal report, titled A Nation At Risk, was released in 1983 claiming that mediocre education was endangering the country, which made improving education a top priority – and one that should include a federal role.

The issue was largely dropped until 1996 when Bob Dole brought the topic up during his presidential campaign.  However, George W. Bush fought hard to increase the federal role in education, and it was not until 2012 that the issue would see another rise in popularity.

The Congressional Budget Office said that about 95% of the $67.3 billion budget the department receives is used for making grants.  Grants are handed out by the department to states in an effort to educate low-income children and children with disabilities, as well as for teacher training.  In addition, K-12 grants are made available for students who live on military bases and other federal lands.  In all, these grants account for 12% of all education spending, writes Libby Nelson for Vox.

The department also hands out individual vouchers to students with financial need in higher education.

There are several options when it comes to getting rid of the Education Department.  If the federal government were to completely leave education, federal aid for college would also come to an end.  The Pell Grant program would be the only thing remaining for college students.  A block grant option would offer federal money to states without any strings attached, meaning the department would no longer have any oversight or control of the funding.

An additional option would change the department into grant-making agency.  Finally, the department could be eliminated while putting the programs under control of another agency.

In response to how he would end the department, Paul said:

“Well, what I would do is I would have it spent on the state and local level. I wouldn’t take it up there at all. I’d leave it at home. So you’d spend the money. You might still spend it in your state government. Even now, 90-95% of your education dollars are state and local.”

Maureen Sullivan for Forbes said that Paul would also like to see more school choice in order to make schools more equal.  She said a number of schools have low standards, and allowing school choice would would help to “breeds excellence and encourages innovation.”