"Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie loves brevity, which he demonstrated with his new one-sentence bill introduced last week: 'The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018,'" Alexander Holt, a policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America, writes in a blog post.
"Massie is probably just scoring some political points, but abolishing the Department of Education is a favorite idea of Republicans, including President Donald Trump. And while elimination is unlikely, it’s also not impossible.
I’ve previously dismissed the idea of eliminating the functions of the Department of Education as fantasy—programs like Pell grants and K-12 funding for poor districts are too popular to cut. But what if there were a way to eliminate the department, as Massie proposes, without cutting these popular programs? It is possible to do. Granted, it would be a bureaucratic nightmare, expensive, and possibly lead to fraud, waste, and abuse. Eliminating a department is unlikely to solve many problems, but very likely to create a lot of new ones. On the other hand, it would be a massive victory for an administration obsessed with symbolism and changing the status quo. Based on Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, this administration seems to have a much different political calculus and higher tolerance for controversy. So, here’s how Trump could abolish the Department of Education.
By dollars, the biggest thing the department does is oversee the $1.3 trillion outstanding portfolio of federal student loans and distribute $30 billion worth of Pell grants every year. Those programs could be moved to the Department of Treasury, something a number of experts have proposed. That’s because the Department of Education, whose leaders and most of its staff have mainly been K-12 focused, don’t have a lot of interest or expertise in the financing and economics of higher education. That was proven most recently when the Government Accountability Office revealed that the department had misestimated the cost of a loan repayment program by tens of billions of dollar due to incompetence. And don’t forget the only number Betsy DeVos cited about federal student loans was false. Given that Treasury doesn’t know much about higher education, the shift could create new problems. But student loans and Pell grants have been a bad enough fit in the Department of Education that even if moving the program proved costly, many would still support it."
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Publication Date: 2/17/2017