Thursday, February 9, 2017

Why We Need The Department of Education

Why We Need The Department Of Education

by Jill Jenkins

Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican from Utah, and Representative Thomas Massive, Republican from Kentucky, are co-sponsoring a bill to dissolve the Department of Education. Some of my friends seem unconcerned about the ramifications of this bill, because they have no ideas how this might affect their state.  Their knowledge of the Department of Education is limited to some misconceptions about The Common Core. People from lower-socioeconomic or middle socioeconomic groups should be concerned because dissolving the Department of Education will eliminate the federal dollars supporting education, free and reduced lunch programs, transportation of special needs students and the likelihood of receiving low interest loans or grants making it impossible for many children to afford college.  People who have children with learning disabilities, behavior or cognitive disabilities, are visually or hearing impaired or have any other disability should be concerned because the funds supporting students with disabilities will disappear.  In fact, the funds available to ensure children with disabilities of any kind whether they providing additional teaching aides, educational resources, transportation or any resource that meet the child's individual needs would vanish.  Students who are new to this country and have limited or no skills speaking English would not have the available resources to learn English making assimilation difficult, not just for the child, but for the entire family as parents often depend on the language skills their children develop in school to succeed in the community.  Female students who are athletic will find competitive sports programs for them disappear.  Lets face it, female basketball games attract fewer audience members than male basketball and male football games. Larger crowds mean more money for the schools.  Schools operate on profits. Children of the more mobile population who might change schools by moving frequently from state to state, or who wish to attend a college outside the borders of their birth state might find themselves lacking skills or be deemed unqualified.  There are huge consequences of eliminating the Department of Education 

Eliminating the Department of Education would be devastating to the poor and middle classes. The affluent members of our society prepare their children for academic and athletic scholarships by providing their children with private schools, private tutors, voice lessons, violin and piano lessons, summer camps and a rich environment of travel, books, music and experiences.  Many of the middle and lower socioeconomic groups live from paycheck to paycheck struggling to provide food, clothing and shelter for their children.  For these students what happens in school is their sole enriching experience. It is not a level playing field.  As a result, it is much less likely that an academic or athletic scholarship will be available for them.  Pell Grants and Federally Insured Student Loans are the essential ingredient to affording them access to post-secondary education.  This is important because college is a staircase to social mobility.  Paying for college tuition is not a problem for the affluent, but it is impossible for many of the poor and middle class.  According to an article appearing the entitled "Chaffetz on co-sponsoring bill: "We Simply Don't Need the Department of Education" Chaffetz states states or private lenders could step in.  States are already have difficulties financing education and it seems unlikely private lenders would lend funds to students who have no assets and whose parents are struggling financially. Without a college degree, "the rich get rich and the poor get poorer."  We simply do need the Department of Education.

What about the financial effects on school districts? According to The Salt Lake Tribune's article "Millions in Federal Support for Utah Schools Teeters on Fiscal Cliff" by Ray Parker published December 28, 2012 in Utah, Ogden School District that has a high percentage of lower socioeconomic students receives about 20% of its budget from federal monies.  While the more affluent Canyon School District receives about 8% of its budget from the federal government.  The state's average is about 10% of each districts budget comes from the federal government which means millions of dollars that the state would have to compensate. Most of it would come from the areas least able to provide.

What do districts use this money for?  The funds are used for identifying and teaching students with disabilities: autism, learning disabilities, behavioral disabilities, physical disabilities, visual and hearing impaired. They provide special transportations and aides to help with students with disabilities.  The funds provide language classes and tutors for students with little or no English proficiency.  For students below the poverty level the funds provide free or reduced priced meals. For girls wishing access to competitive sports, track, basketball and baseball teams are funded.  The Department of Education collects and shares data on educational outcomes and provided workshops for educators to continually improve instruction to all subgroups.  The department provides accreditation for colleges and public schools to insure quality education and equal access to everyone. These are only some of the resources that the Department of Education funds.  If these costs were passed on to the states, it is unlikely they could shoulder the burden. As a result, those who need the most assistance would not get the help they need.  Eliminating the Department of Education would handicap the handicapped.

In the past people raised their families in the same neighborhoods where their grandparents raised their children, but times have changed.  Economics conditions have created a more mobile society. Many children who begin their education in one state move five or six times before they graduate from college. Our communities are more diverse and they move more often.  As a result, schools need to have curriculums and learning expectations that correspond with the curriculums and learning expectations found in other states. The Department of Education not only provides this, but collects and provides data to states allowing them analyze how well they are meeting the educational needs of each subgroup: racial, economic, or learning disabled.  If they have disparaging gap, not seen in surrounding states, they can learn and develop more effective methods of improving the education of that subgroup. States could collect their data on their population, but without comparing it to other states, they would by unmotivated and unlikely to avail themselves to resources to improve.  This would make life difficult for a mobile population.  Moving from one state to another could impede the child's education.  If the child decides to attend a college outside the borders of his state, he may be unprepared and unqualified.  Since I worked as both a presenter for the Office of Education and a educator at their workshops for educators, I can assure you the exchange of techniques and ideas bring fresh ideas and tactics to educators and improve schools. Schools and teachers become more effective and everyone wins.

Jason Chaffetz and Thomas Massive are wrong.  Eliminating the Department of Education may save some money for the federal government, but it would burden the states financially. It would hurt the most vulnerable: those with disabilities; those learning English; those hungry children whose parents struggle to provide for them and competitive sports for strong women.  Eliminating the Department of Education would dash the dreams of a bright future with a college education for those poor and middle class students.  Eliminating the office of education would be a travesty.  "A mind is a terrible thing to waste.  Don't let Jason Chaffetz and Thomas Massive destroy the future for these children.