Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Is Wrong with the Department of Education?

4,800 staff members here spend $80 billion a year

Why does the lamestream media huff and puff every time a candidate makes the quite sensible suggestion that the Department of Education be shut down or, at least, reduced in size? After all, as National Review has noted, the department “was created as a straight political payoff to the teachers’ unions by President Jimmy Carter (in return for their 1976 endorsements). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, DE’s original budget, in 1980, was $13.1 billion (in 2007 dollars), and it employed 450 people. By 2000, it had increased to $34.1 billion, and by 2007 it had more than doubled to $73 billion. The budget for fiscal 2011 was $77.8 billion, and the department [by then employed] 4,800.”

What do 4,800 plus DE employees do, as they spend the equivalent of twice what Obama’s “Buffet rule” tax would raise in one year? My one-hour lunchtime search of Google could not produce a list of departments by number of employees and budget. But here’s some anecdotal news that they are wasting plenty of taxpayers’ money:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced from Richmond March 31 that the state had succeeded in overturning a $55,000 DE fine levied on Virginia Tech in 2008. The reason for the fine? Apparently, the bloated staff at the department has developed strict guidelines on how campus officials must communicate emergency conditions to students, and Virginia Tech failed to follow these federally dictated standards during the 2007 shooting which left seven undergraduates dead. However, when Cuccinelli went to court to defend Tech, the chief administrative law judge of the U.S. Department of Education found that the university had complied with federal law in its response to the campus shootings, and as a result, he vacated the DE fine against the university.

In short, some bureaucrat at the Department of Education decided from his/her desk in Washington that it was correct and useful to harass Virginia Tech in the wake of the most terrible tragedy to ever befall the university community. This decision led to a colossal waste of time and money—at DE, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, and at Virginia Tech. It’s a good case study in what happens when the federal government bureaucracy mucks around in local affairs that should not concern them.

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