2024 Republicans want to eliminate the Education Department. What would that look like?


Multiple Republican presidential candidates made it clear at this week’s debate that the Department of Education is in danger if they are elected.

“Let’s shut down the head of the snake, the Department of Education,” Vivek Ramaswamy said. “Take that $80 billion, put it in the hands of parents across this country.”

Conservatives see the department, which has more than 4,400 employees and in its current form dates back to 1979 after first being established in 1867, as a prime example of Washington’s meddling in Americans’ lives. Former Vice President Mike Pence stated Wednesday that it was time to “shutdown the Federal Department of Education”.

But what would it mean to actually shutter the massive agency?

How could the department be eliminated?

Killing the Department of Education (DOE) is easier said than done.

Conservatives have said since the creation of the department they want to get rid of it. From President Ronald Reagan and his education secretary to President Trump and his own, Republicans have decried the department’s existence but failed to abolish it.

That is because the decision to do so is not only up to the president but would have to go through Congress.

“There would have to be some legislation to specifically outline this, but I do think it would need to have the support of the executive branch and, obviously, this is a Cabinet-level agency, so I think having the president — would have to take a leadership role and help to make sure that the proposal is carefully crafted,” said Jonathan Butcher, the Will Skillman Senior Research Fellow in Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, which supports nixing DOE.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) proposed such legislation in 2021 and reintroduced it earlier this year.

“Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development,” Massie said two years ago. States and local communities have the best opportunity to create curricula which meet students’ needs. Parents have the right to choose what educational opportunity is best for their children, whether it’s home schooling, public schooling or private education. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school.”

DOE did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

DOE’s duties would be absorbed by other federal agencies

DOE has an enormous number of responsibilities, including handling student loans, investigating complaints against schools and tracking education progress across the country.

None of the 2024 candidates during Wednesday’s debate detailed how they would handle eliminating it, but conservatives have longed to see many of its tasks either completely eliminated or absorbed into other departments.

“For example, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. I think that any duplicate responsibilities that it shares with the Department of Justice should be eliminated, and then the rest of that office should go to the Department of Justice,” Butcher said.

On student loans, Butcher says the elimination could lead to the federal government getting “out of the business of awarding student loans and then for what remains it would be moved to the Department of the Treasury.”

Even after ridding themselves of DOE, the GOP candidates indicated they would still focus on implementing national education policies. “I will also shut down Federal Department of Education.” Pence stated that when he was governor we doubled the size the largest school-choice program in America. We will give school choice to all families in America once I am in the White House. Cardona stated that he was looking forward to working with the diverse group of stakeholders in education, including students, parents and teachers, caregivers, advocates, state, local, tribal leaders, and career staff.

Would the move save money?

Conservatives argue that eliminating the Education Department would cut costs and bureaucratic red tape for states. The report says that eliminating the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services would save $4 billion over time, while taking away the Office for Postsecondary Education would cut $2.1 billion. The report says eliminating the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services would save $4 billion over time, while taking away the Office for Postsecondary Education would cut $2.1 billion

Those against getting rid of DOE have said the difficulty with closing the department and delegating tasks elsewhere would be a bureaucratic nightmare and actually raise costs on taxpayers.

Some have taken it a step further, saying the idea of getting rid of the department is “racist.”

“Although the effort to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education is grounded in the backdrop of a cultural war, this effort is also a direct affront to civil rights,” said Luke Wood, professor of education at San Diego State University, in an op-ed for The San Diego Union-Tribune when Massie reintroduced his legislation earlier this year.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.