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Why Does the Tea Party Want to Eliminate the Department of Education?

Mar 2, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

If you’re paying attention to the Republican presidential field, you’ll hear a lot of candidates calling for the elimination of the Department of Education. This is due to strong Tea Party influence within the party. This is a popular proposal among this powerful group, and many high-profile candidates have supported it—including Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul.

Tea Party supporters may love to hear their candidates supporting this cause—but more mainstream and liberal voters are often baffled by it. To a more mainstream base, it often appears as though the Tea Party doesn’t value education at all—but Tea Partiers will often claim that nothing could be farther from the case. Here are a few reasons why the Tea Party wants to eliminate the Department of Education.

Because it’s not specified in the constitution

The Tea Party believes that all laws and regulations administered by the federal government should be directly traced back to the Constitution. Anything that isn’t required according to the Constitution should be a matter for the states.

Tea Party Cup

No matter where you stand on the issues, one thing is clear—the Tea Party is emphatic about its cost-cutting priorities.



One reason why Tea Party loyalists often mention the Department of Education as one they’d like to eliminate is because this is not an agency mentioned in the Constitution. There is no part of the Constitution that specifically says that the federal government should oversee education in the U.S. Therefore, it’s assumed that the Founding Fathers meant for the states to take care of this themselves.

As precedent for this, some Tea Partiers cite Article X of the Bill of Rights—which states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Because it’s expensive and ineffective

Tea Partiers are advocates for fiscal responsibility within government, and many believe that the Department of Education is an expensive agency—with a multi-billion dollar budget—that does not deliver results. According to the website Tea Party Activists*, the amount of money spent on individual students in the US has doubled between 1980 and 2008—without significantly improving high school graduation rates or test scores. 

Because it takes control of schools from local communities

While it’s not entirely Libertarian, there is a strong Libertarian streak in the Tea Party. And Libertarians traditionally fight against government control over issues including education. Many Tea Partiers feel that the government should not impose national standards on what children learn, when this is a personal and cultural decision on the part of parents that should be controlled on the local level. Some in the Tea Party see national standards such as No Child Left Behind as overbearing and imposing on communities whose priorities for the education of their children might be quite different.

There are other, more cynical reasons why Tea Party opponents believe that Tea Partiers take this position. For example, the Tea Party often blames teachers’ unions for the size of the Department of Education’s budget. Targeting teachers’ unions could possibly benefit the party, as union members are traditionally Democratic supporters. Whether this is true or not, however, depends on who you ask.

No matter where you stand on the issues, one thing is clear—the Tea Party is emphatic about its cost-cutting priorities. The Department of Education is just one of the federal agencies in its crosshairs—but an important one whose elimination would affect millions of students and their families. Whether that’s for better or worse depends on your political beliefs.


Michael Keathley Over a year ago

Definitely an idea worth considering. I've been writing in my own blog lately about the ways some politicians seem to use education as a springboard for reducing First Amendment rights. Perhaps eliminating the DOE is a good step.

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