Kentucky U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie says his bill that would abolish the federal Department of Education should be taken seriously because the interest it has generated means the measure could ultimately end up on President Donald Trump’s desk.
“I think the reason people have to take this bill seriously now, is because, for the first time since Ronald Reagan, we have a president in the White House who would conceivably sign this bill,” he explains in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News.
Massie, who introduced his bill to abolish the federal education department on February 7, says he and many of his colleagues have received a significant number of calls from their constituents urging that the bill move forward.
Neither Congress nor the Pres, thru his appointees, has the const. auth. to dictate how/what our children must learn https://t.co/T87DXtY0Xd
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 7, 2017
“I was just told by one of my staff – and I haven’t confirmed this – that it’s the second most viewed bill on the congressional website,” he says. “I don’t know how they keep the statistics, but the most viewed bill was one I co-sponsored that was modeled after my bill, which was abolishing the EPA.”
Massie’s measure consists of only one sentence: “The Department of Education Shall Terminate on December 31, 2018.” He introduced it at the very same time U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 7, 2017
He explains the bill’s timing:
I’ve had the bill prepared since December of last year in anticipation of offering it this year. But, as we received more and more phone calls from people who wanted me to vote against Betsy DeVos – and I had to explain to them that it is the constitutional role of the Senate to advise and consent, not the House – they would then ask me to do anything I could to oppose her nomination. And, so, this bill seemed like the obvious answer to their question: What can I do to oppose her nomination?
DeVos’s confirmation was opposed by groups on both the left and the right. Teachers’ unions and their supporters oppose DeVos’s support of charter schools and school choice, which they say will divert funding from public schools to private schools. Additionally, groups that claim the education secretary has funded and served on boards of organizations that promote the Common Core standards opposed DeVos’s nomination. These constitutionally based groups would like to see the federal role in education ended.
Massie says now is the perfect time for legislation that could easily get support from both sides of the political aisle:
I think right now is a wonderful opportunity for us to get some people on the left side of the aisle in favor of reducing big government. Because, oftentimes, they’ve been proponents of a centralized government that’s not just powerful, but which has placed all of its power in the executive branch. And for the last four years – I have been arguing – number one, we need to devolve that power back to the states, but number two, to the extent it exists at the federal level, it needs to go back to Congress instead of sitting in the White House. And, now, I think the liberals are more receptive to that argument. And, if nothing else, they’re certainly apathetic about the Department of Education right now.
“My bill seems to be the only solution that the left and the right can agree on,” he states.
Massie’s bill currently has seven co-sponsors, including Republicans Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.
“I think it’s significant that Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is an original co-sponsor,” he says.
The Kentucky Republican adds that while his bill does not specifically address what would happen to the spending programs that are currently administered by the federal education department, he anticipates a joint effort to consider an orderly plan.
“What I would propose is – over the course of the next two years – Betsy DeVos, the president, and Congress should work to either devolve those programs to the states, or transfer the authority for those programs to other departments,” he explains. “Ideally, all of these programs would be administered at the state level, including the authority for the tax collection. In fact, some of these programs could be done at the local school district level.”
I think that’s ideal, but probably what would happen is certain things, like Pell grants or student loan guarantees, would be transferred to the Treasury Department. The Health and Human Services administers the Head Start program already. You could take the disabilities and move it there. There’s certain grant programs within the Department of Education for training of teachers – that could go to the Department of Labor.
And, so, those are all debates that can happen independent of my bill. My intention was to keep the bill as simple as possible so that we could develop a consensus among Democrats and Republicans, and among educators who see that the control of the federal Department of Education has been bad for their school districts, but might not want to give up that money. The first thing is to get consensus among that group, and that’s why I kept the bill simple. And it’s working pretty well. There are a lot of schoolteachers who are for this bill in general.
“I like to point out that there are 4,500 bureaucrats in the Department of Education, and their average salary is $105,000 a year,” Massie continues. “I’ve seen that irritate a lot of people back in Kentucky who have to have bake sales to buy copier paper for their classrooms.”
Regardless of what happens to all of the various programs, what my bill unambiguously does is to free up that money that would be going to all of those bureaucrats. And the money that’s wasted there is not the worst part of it. The worst part of it is they control 10 percent of education funding, but – through that 10 percent of education funding – they control the curriculum and what and how our teachers are teaching.
“So, my bill is not aimed at that 10 percent,” he says. “I don’t seek to reduce educational spending. I’d like to see the control of that 10 percent go back to the states so that these 4,500 bureaucrats aren’t controlling the entire curriculum back in our schools in Kentucky.”
Massie says that, to date, neither the White House nor the education department – including DeVos – have contacted him about his bill.
“I do seem to remember that Trump was in favor of this,” he says. “I’m going to pursue the bill here in Congress with the assumption that if we can get it to them, they would sign it. In the meantime, a lot of congressmen are hearing from their constituents in support of this bill.”