Blitzing the Dept. of Education

By Katie Kieffer

Tim Tebow

Image credit: “dep_533” by Dhanny Prawira on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Tim Tebow and I both blitzed the Department of Education; we were both homeschooled. Tebow became the first homeschooler to win the Heisman Trophy and he’s now an NFL starting quarterback. And, as someone who was homeschooled through eighth grade and attended a private high school before graduating from college, I personally know that young people don’t need the federal government running their education.

I think American children and their parents deserve more than an unconstitutional, one-size-fits-all federal education system. I think local governments and individual parents have the constitutional right to decide how and where children go to school. Let’s eliminate the Department of Education.

The Department of Education is unconstitutional because it violates the Tenth Amendment, which states: “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.” There is no federal mandate for public education in the Constitution, so no one has a constitutional right to an education subsidized by federal taxpayer dollars.

To be exact, since the Constitution does not mention “education” as a federal function, Congress should have voted to amend the Constitution in order to give the federal government the power to regulate education. Since Congress never amended the Constitution, the federal Department of Education remains unconstitutional.

The Department of Education was initially a minor office within the government. However, President Jimmy Carter decided that he wanted to be in charge of education. So, on October 17, 1979, he signed a law promoting the Department to cabinet-level and placing education under the purview of the executive branch.

Initially, most Republicans understood that Carter’s move was unconstitutional. Carter’s successor, President Reagan, tried to eliminate the Department of Education but the Democrats in Congress blocked him. The CATO Institute reports that in 1996, the GOP’s party platform still included this belief: “The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education.”

After Reagan, some Republicans began swerving off the constitutional path. Former President George W. Bush proposed and signed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. This bill helped double the size of the Department of Education and NCLB’s requirements for federal funding effectively seized more authority from States and individuals.

Today, we have a GOP presidential candidate (Rick Santorum) who voted for the No Child Left Behind Act even as he was unwilling to put his own children through the broken public school system. Politicians like Santorum routinely vote for public school funding and then hypocritically send their own children to private schools or tutor them at home. Every politician wants to say he or she cares about educating children, but, at the end of the day, a child’s parents have his or her best interest in mind.

Because the Department of Education is a federal affair, it’s effectively an unjust tax. 33 million Americans (28 percent of all households) live alone, according to 2011 census data. Why should these solo breadwinners be forced to pay for strangers to get an “education?” There are also millions of families who choose to put their children in private schools or homeschool them. How is it just for these families to pay twice—to educate their children and subsidize the neighborhood children?

Private School Students

Image credit: f1uffster (Jeanie) on Flickr via Creative Commons.

I think there is a common misconception that people who send their children to private school or homeschool are über-wealthy and can “afford” to pay taxes for other children to go to public school. Growing up, I remember busybodies asking me, “How can your mom afford to stay home?” Later, when I went to a private high school, the snoops would say: “Oh. Wow. That’s so expensive. What does your dad do?”

My parents were not über-wealthy. They sacrificed a great deal and gave up buying new cars and going on big-ticket vacations so that my siblings and I could get the best education possible. Many other homeschooling and private school parents I knew growing up were the exact same way. As a kid, I remember thinking that it was unjust for my parents to sacrifice and work so hard for my education and to subsidize the next-door neighbor boys’ free ride to public school.

I have no problem with public schools that are managed entirely on a local level. Let’s say there’s a town of like-minded people who want to pool their resources together and build a school: They have a town meeting and the majority of residents—including the retirees and single people in the community—are willing to pitch in funds for a public school. The residents are freely vested in the school’s mission and they will spend their collective funds wisely. That kind of public school is fine by me because it’s locally controlled and 100 percent constitutional.

America’s first public school, in fact, was a perfect example of a local (constitutional) public school. Boston Latin School was established in 1635. It had no national element. It had a strong humanitarian curriculum and students learned how to read, write and multiply—not how to put a condom on a banana. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine, attended Boston Latin. (Franklin dropped out before graduating.)

It costs taxpayers over $10,000 per year to educate the average public school student. For zero cost to the state and under $1,000 a year to themselves, parents can educate their child at home and the child will probably have better academic test scores. Last month, USA Today analyzed a 2009 National Home Education Research Institute study revealing that homeschooled students score higher than public school students by an of average of 37 percentile points.

So, besides the fact that the Department of Education is unconstitutional, there is no evidence that more money and federal control invariably produce smarter children. My brother is in medical school now and he was homeschooled through sixth grade.

Some of America’s most successful people were successful precisely because they avoided the federal education system at some point. People like: Tim Tebow, Jason Taylor, Bode Miller, Venus and Serena Williams, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, Claude Monet, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, Robert Frost, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Andrew Carnegie and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Let’s help children, parents and taxpayers regain their constitutional freedom. Let’s blitz the Department of Education.

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  1. earlye says:

    Sorry to play the role of "editor," but this bit left me with some cognitive dissonance.

    "Some of America’s most successful people were successful precisely because they avoided the federal education system at some point. People like: …"

    Many of these people predate the federal education system, and three were Europeans. Perhaps you meant, "Some of the world's most successful people were successful precisely because they were homeschooled at some point…"

    • Kris says:

      It looks like you got her overall point, Earlye. What are you trying to accomplish by nit-picking on technicalities? What does it matter if a few of the individuals listed were of European descent? If they had a non-governmental controlled education and still became success stories, then then fit the freedom/Tim Tebow example. I also think she was probably trying to include names of people who would be globally recognized so as to resonate with a wide range of readers.

  2. Atomicdawg36 says:

    While I agree that the current educational system needs some adjusting, to talk about moving the pendulum all the way over towards individualism and local and home rule isn't all that great either. I mean, just think about what a system like that would have meant/PRODUCED (for our country) if prejudiced people were allowed to "home school" what THEY thought was right and correct and best? I mean really? State/Federal funded education is supposed to be, at least theoretically, about getting ALL students STARTED off on the same foot, n the same page. To teach and learn a COMMON set of principles, facts, methodologies, deductive reasoning skills, etc etc. Now, hooray for you that you APPEAR, at least so far, to have been taught right. But what about the thousands and MILLIONS of kids who DON'T have the benefit that you did have. I mean, even though you say you weren't UBER rich, do you realize that you were still better off that 70-80% of ALL school-aged kids? DEFINITELY, better off than myself when I was your age. You start with the PREMISE ( and incorrectly so) that ALL PARENTS would start off with the same knowledge, skills, determination and wherewithal that YOUR parents had. That is sadly not the case. I am a first generation college kid. My dad got his GED in the Army, and my mom has like a 6th grade education. I was able to take FULL ADVANTAGE of a Public Education, go to college full time, worked darn-near full time, graduated and became a white collar professional. DO you REALLY think I could have achieved all that I did, being educated by my 6th grade level mom and my GED dad? By the way, my parents were born in the South in 1920 and 1918 respectively, and I was born some 45 years later. Trust me, they struggeled to help me with my 5th grade math and english. No, in an ideal world, if we didn't have a history of 400 years of bigotry and selfishness, prejudices, fearfulness, haughtiness, vanity, holier-than-thou, etc etc., maybe if eveyone here in the US, all 330 million of us were ALL descendents of western europe, and where 60-70% of us were all in the same economic group and where we all looked homogeneous, then maybe, just maybe, your idea would work.

    • Kris says:

      What facts are you citing when you say that our public education system is still the best in the world? The facts show that American students are falling behind students all over the world in Math, reading/writing and science. It's hard to defend the amount of money that the taxpayers dump into the public school system when students come out needing remedial training just to get into college and some of America's best grad schools are even having to teach basic writing courses to MBA students.

      It's also a little strange how you are so afraid of letting parents teach their own children. When America was developing, a lone teacher would teach 20-plus students of different levels in a one-room school house. What's to say that a mother or father couldn't teach one or two children? I think that it would be hard for a parent to teach advanced subjects like calculus/physics/drama/chemistry but I think Katie's talking primarily about homeschool as a great option for K-8. Also, if a parent wants to homeschool their student through high school (as Tim Tebow was and he's a smart, social, successful man) there are all kinds of online resources for parents to help their children tackle these advanced subjects like math and science with specialized tutors.

    • Marie Frances says:


      You really are brainwashed if you think that the gov't run schools are providing our kids with the BEST education to make them the brightest and best citizens we could have.


  3. Witzend says:

    Like you, I was educated at private schools through my doctorate. My Dad was a steal worker and Mom stayed at home, so we weren't living high on the hog by any means. Like your family, mine didn't take extravagant vacations to faraway beaches every winter and we always drove a second hand clunker. As a kid, I was kind of embarrassed because of these sacrifices because back then, I didn't view them as such. I just figured my Dad was cheap. Now, of course, I finally matured (to my Dad's surprise), and will be eternally thankful to my family who had foresight to do what was in the best interest of the kids, not themselves.

    Great piece, Katie. Keep fighting the good fight.

  4. Kris says:

    Terrific column. I love your way of putting a positive spin on the dire situation we face as a country. If we come together and go back to the Constitution, like you suggest, our children will receive better educations and have better opportunities in their futures.

  5. Lodzia says:

    Another very good post, Katie!
    It does seem that you are saying that all children, whether they are
    educated at a private, public or home school would greatly benefit
    with getting rid of the Department of Education.

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