What happens if Rand Paul, allies, abolish the U.S. Dept. of Education?
WASHINGTON — Students from poor families would feel the most pain if calls by Kentucky Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul and fellow Tea Party movement conservatives to abolish the U.S. Department of Education are successful, say officials and policy experts.
“Although federal funding makes up a comparatively small portion of the total funding for public (Preschool-12th grade) education in Kentucky, many of our schools rely heavily on these monies to serve their most at-risk students,” said said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman with the Kentucky Department of Education.
States traditionally get 10 percent of their education dollars from the federal government — $429 million in Kentucky, according to the state.
In Fayette County, that translates to about $25 million, nearly 65 percent of which is used to help level the academic playing field for disadvantaged and challenged students through smaller class sizes, reading and math enrichment programs, and classroom assistants.
“The other really major thing the Department of Education has done is focus schools and educators on all children. We can’t afford to educate only some of our children,” said Cindy Heine, interim executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in Lexington. “If we take away the push to help all children and then you take away the financial support that provides extra targeting then you are really going to leave those children in a very poor situation.”
Doing away with the U.S. Department of Education, which currently administers a budget of $63.7 billion and serves 56 million students, would force officials to determine whether to downsize, reassign or eliminate an array of federally-funded programs.
Programs on the chopping block would include Title 1, which distributes funds to schools and districts with high numbers of low-income students; Pell Grants for low-income college students; and Head Start, an early childhood education program for lower-income children.
Dismantling the Department of Education would also prove a herculean and politically unpopular task, said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.