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Comparing the responsibilities and authority of the Department of Education against rules and regulations

Updated on March 28, 2015

The Department of Education in the last few years has become more involved with the education system in our country. This involvement is not always a welcomed one and there has been some resistance with some of the rules, regulations or proposals one of which in particular is the philosophy of common core. Common core invokes the principle of one size fits all and this philosophy has no place in our education system. States are beginning to pass legislation rejecting the principle of common core and establishing or revising their own education philosophy. While our education system is one of the best if not the best in the world it does not mean that improvements in the system are not needed. The key answer is what part this government entity should play in the changes to be made.

In looking at the overview of this government entity and its mission statement the actions or proposals from this department raises many questions with regards to their purpose or objective. Comparing their decisions against their mission and the rules and regulations do not necessarily match especially the following statement taken from their web site:

“Please note that in the U.S., the federal role in education is limited. Because of the Tenth Amendment, most education policy is decided at the state and local levels. So, if you have a question about a policy or issue, you may want to check with the relevant organization in your state or school district.”

Along with other executive departments and agencies the culture of the federal government appears to be government knows best. The statement in the paragraph above about the federal role in education being limited as a result of the tenth amendment is not matched by the decisions this entity has made regarding education. One point to make involving the existence of this department is the fact that education is not identified as a federal government responsibility which leaves it to the states to decide educational philosophy. States through their legislature make decisions regarding requirements for educating their citizens. In reference to the one size fits all philosophy the needs for educating citizens are different dependent upon the diversity of their population.

The overview and mission of the Department of Education is provided below along with some discussion as applicable. The mission “is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” The mission as stated in the previous sentence is not the issue but the manner in which it is being accomplished.

Every individual deserves a quality education but what the term educational excellence represents may be a matter of opinion. With regards to accomplishing their mission there are four basic objectives. The first involves establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds. It is an appropriate objective to provide funding for individuals who may lack the financial resources to achieve a quality education. Financial aid in this objective promotes the perspective of helping students who want to go to college but need financial help. The key element of this objective needs to be that all individuals regardless of ethnic background should not be denied access to this funding. The expense of a college education whether it is at a four year or two year institution has reached the point of keeping students out of college because of the costs. In this respect something needs to change in our education system.

Another aspect of achieving the mission of this department involves the collection of data on America’s schools and disseminating research. Data collection through this department as it now appears evaluates schools based on a set of criteria for success or failure. Again this appears to be a one size fits all philosophy and again has no place in our educational system. It is acceptable to have some measurement of educational institutions but that measurement should consider the diverse needs of individual school systems. What works in one system to achieve a quality education for their students does not necessarily work in another. Each state and the school systems within it have different needs some of which involves finances.

The aspect of collecting data and disseminating research is a support type function for which the federal government should be. The federal government was established to be a support organization for the states not dictating what the states will be required to do in this case education. With regards to common core the federal government from what I understand offers financial resources if states adopt this philosophy. While some requirements need to be in place for government funding in some cases requiring states to establish certain philosophies to gain federal funding is contrary to the principle of integrity. Funding with regards to education should not be based on schools or states making certain decisions but the need in achieving the objective of a quality education for all students.

Another aspect of working to accomplishing their mission as an organization is focusing national attention on key educational issues. In this respect this serves a purpose to some extent in that if there is a lack of individuals meeting current or future needs of businesses this entity can bring attention to this deficiency. The point to remember is that the focus should be on the needs of our businesses not comparing our country with others. There has been a focus to some extent whether it comes from this department or another our country is being ranked against foreign countries in terms of subjects. We are our own country and should not worry about other countries. We need to meet our needs and not have other countries impact what those needs should be.

The last objective is prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education. This objective makes sense as part of this organization. Determining whether an educational institution provides equal access to education can sometimes be an opinion based on a set of facts. Opinions can differ between individuals it is a matter of what result they want to see rather than what the facts project. Making accusations not firmly backed up with the facts does no one any good. Accusations hurt the individual or organization making those statements and it hurts the institution that is the focus of the accusations.

Last there is one more point to make. The Department of Education does not have a basis in the Constitution as a government responsibility. This does not mean that the need for this entity does not exist it is a matter of what decisions they make and their impact. As previously stated at the beginning of this article there is room for improvement in our educational system it is a matter of who has the responsibility and authority to make those changes. Under the Constitution in the tenth amendment it is the states that should make those kind of decisions. This department can provide information to help make those decisions but it should not be the entity making them.


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