Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson pushed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) through Congress, a $1 billion program to help poor students and less fortunate school districts.
When he signed the bill into law on April 11, 1965, LBJ stated that he believed that “no law I have signed or will ever sign means more to the future of America.” If he meant a bleaker future, his prediction has certainly come true.
Even before the days of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the federal government had been worming its way into the education systems of the individual states. In 1953, President Eisenhower, less than two months on the job, re-organized several agencies of the federal government into a new Cabinet department – Health, Education, and Welfare.
But it was Johnson who began a large-scale intrusion into education, an all-out effort that has not abated in half a century. And since those early days, the federal role in education has only grown, both in terms of its size and scope, as well as its cost to the American taxpayer.
From the ESEA to the Department of Education to No Child Left Behind, the new Common Core program is just the latest, and by far the worst, federal intrusion into American schools. Senator Mike Lee has rightly labeled it the “Obamacare of education,” a plan that will result in “the DC takeover of our school system. It will dumb down standards and cheapen the education our children receive.”
It will cheapen the education every American receives, no doubt, but it certainly won’t be cheap on the pocketbook of the taxpayers, if history is any indication. In the last 40 years we have seen a 375 percent increase in federal education spending with no sign Washington will stop anytime soon.
Since the 1965 ESEA, the total is $2 trillion. Annually, American taxpayers spend $13,000 per student, roughly a quarter of a million dollars per classroom, more than any other nation on the planet by far.
With so much money being spent, the question is: why are our schools still failing?
Because, as Investors’ Business Daily has editorialized, all this federal money “feeds a bureaucratic monster sheltered from competition.” With a monopoly on education, there is no incentive or good reason to improve public education. And that’s not to mention the vast and complex sociological concerns underlying the present failed system.
The results have been horrendous. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the United States spends “more per pupil than any other country, but among industrialized nations, American students rank near the bottom in science and math. Only 13 percent of high school seniors know what high school seniors should know about American history.”
In December 2013, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released its latest study and found that American teens have slipped to 31st in math, 24th in science, and 21st in reading. Shamefully, Third World and underdeveloped nations actually finished ahead of America.
In Mississippi, once again we are ranked dead last. This is unacceptable.
In my eight years in the senate I have fought to free us from federal intrusion and repeal Common Core.
With much hope, conservatives in the senate believed this year would finally see the end of Common Core. And after years of blocking any effort to get rid of Common Core, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves indicated that he supported the cause. Yet when an amendment reached the floor designed to finally eliminate Common Core, Reeves mustered the necessary votes to kill it.
So on the specific instructions of Lt. Gov. Reeves, Common Core survives and will remain the standards for Mississippi schools.
But we fight on. Simply put, in keeping with our system of federalism, Washington has no right to meddle in our schools. It is only through state and local efforts that our schools can improve.
Unlike Washington bureaucrats, I care deeply for public education. My father was a college professor. My wife and mother-in-law are public school teachers. My children attend public schools. I will never turn my back on public education.
But I will say no to continued federal involvement in it.
My philosophy of education is based on one simple fact, one that is shared by the vast majority of Mississippians: I care more for my children than any bureaucrat in Washington, DC.
And it is only with that kind of thinking can we once again regain our position as world leader in education.
Senator Chris McDaniel is an attorney, conservative commentator, and was a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014. He has represented the 42nd District, which encompasses parts of South Mississippi, since 2008. He lives with his family in Ellisville, Mississippi.