Wyoming’s lone U.S. House representative has co-sponsored a one-sentence bill that would eliminate the federal Department of Education by Dec. 31.
Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming, announced Wednesday that she “proudly co-sponsored” House Resolution 899.
Backed entirely by Republican lawmakers and sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, the bill is just one sentence long and proposes to “terminate” the U.S. Department of Education by the end of this year.
Hageman has touted the bill as an answer to onerous federal micromanagement. Her Wyoming peers in the U.S. Senate, and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder voiced general support of any measure that cuts federal bureaucracy from education.
However, a school district superintendent in Powell, Wyoming, said one sentence isn’t enough to address the massive redirection of federal money the move would involve.
Where Does The Money Go?
“That’s not much of a plan,” Jay Curtis, Superintendent of Park County School District No. 1, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.
He said there could be confusion about where the Department of Education’s money will go if it’s abolished and who would be interpreting Congress’ numerous education laws.
The Department of Education publishes regulations to enforce Congress’ education laws. These regulations change, generally, depending on who the president is.
But Curtis is no fan of the federal education department.
Ideally, Curtis said he’d like for his schools to continue to receive federal funding, but to have more efficient, less micromanaged ways of handling it.
“The (U.S.) Department of Education, in fact, they’ve made things extremely difficult in many ways over the years,” said Curtis.
He described complex and layered federal grant application, accounting and tracking requirements.
“You can’t name a federal program that does not require a lot of man hours,” he said, adding with apparent sarcasm: “It is a bureaucracy at its finest.”
The federal programs do help kids. And the money would be missed if it vanished, Curtis said.
He added that he sees the department as a “necessary evil” to tolerate until Congress can designate an efficient replacement for it.
As a “very rough” estimate, about 10% of Curtis’ Powell, Wyoming, district’s money comes from federal sources, and about 70% of that slice comes from the U.S. Department of Education, he said.
Or This Bill
Curtis said he hadn’t investigated the bill deeply, but he pointed to H.R. 938 as a more-structured alternative to Hageman’s H.R. 899.
Backed by seven House Republicans, H.R. 938 proposes to terminate the federal department within 30 days of its passage.
If it passed, H.R. 938 would order the U.S. secretary of the treasury to allocate funding to the states to support elementary and secondary education, in proportion to the aggregate amount of federal income taxes paid by the residents of each state.
It is Congress’ “sense,” says the bill, that the states would distribute those funds to advance school choice and competition between schools, while respecting parents’ right to determine “the best education for their children.”
H.R. 938 also would shift the federal Pell Grant program and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program into the secretary of the treasury’s purview.
Let’s Go Local
Hageman told Cowboy State Daily in a Thursday email that she comes from a family of educators, including her mother, who taught kindergarten through eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse. The House delegate said she received a well-rounded education and learned the invaluable skills that propelled her to where she is today.
“We know how to educate our children,” Hageman said. “They should be taught by members of their community who care deeply about their lifelong success.”
Hageman had strong words for the federal Department of Education, saying it “only serves to launder money out of our school districts to return it with strings attached.”
Wyoming’s “wonderful, caring educators” can address student needs, she added, “without the hand-tying of federal bureaucracy.”
Up In The Senate
Meanwhile in the Senate, Wyoming’s Republican U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso voiced support for reforming or removing the federal department.
“Wyoming families, not elitists in Washington, understand the needs of our students and should be directing the upbringing, education and care of their children,” said Barrasso.
Lummis made a similar statement. She also rebuked the current Department of Education under President Joe Biden as harming Wyoming. She cited Biden’s attempt to use the department to wipe away billions of dollars in student debt.
Degenfelder told Cowboy State Daily in a Thursday email that she supports any efforts to reduce federal bureaucracy and return education control back to local communities and parents.
No Word From Teachers’ Lobby
Grady Hutcherson, president of the education lobby group Wyoming Education Association, did not return a Friday morning voicemail requesting comment.
The Wyoming Education Association may have heartburn with H.R. 938, however: the group consistently opposes state bills favoring school choice.
Doesn’t Matter Yet
There’s almost no chance that either bill abolishing the U.S. Department of Education will pass under the nation’s current government makeup, Curtis said.
“Even if they get it through the House, and even if they get it through the (Democrat-controlled) Senate, it’ll never pass the president’s desk at this point,” he said.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.