The Heritage Foundation

Issue Bulletin #35

April 23, 1979

April 23, 1979 | Issue Bulletin on

Department of Education

(Archived document, may contain errors)


April 23, 1979 (Revised from September 29, 1978)



On January 24, 1979, Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.), chair- man of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, introduced S.210, a. bill providing for a cabinet-level Department of Education. The committee held three days of hearings, February 6-8, and voted 9-1 to report the bill on March 14. The Senate took up consideration of S.210 on April 5, at which time Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) succeeded in persuading the Senate to attach an amendment removing the juris- diction of the Supreme Court over the issue o! voluntary prayer in school. But on April 9 sponsors of the bill got a vote of reconsidera- tion and then managed to reverse the original vote and remove the amendment from the bill. The Senate broke for Easter recess with the bill still under consideration on the floor. When action is resumed, Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce major amend- ments calling for the inclusion of all federal education programs in the new department. S. 210 as reported essentially proposes to up- grade HEW's Office of Education to cabinet-level status but omits numerous education programs scattered throughout the executive branch.

In the House, Congressman Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, introduced H.R. 2444, a companion bill to S. 210, on February 27, 1979. Hearings have been completed and the full committee expects to markup the bill soon after the com- pletion of the Easter recess. The vote in committee is expected to be close. In the 95th Congress, a-bill creating a Department of Education passed the Senate by a 72-11 vote but did not receive floor considera- tion in the House because of.the legislative logjam before adjourn- ment.


Early American schools were organized at the community level, almost always in conjunctionwith local churches, and placed under the direction of popularly elected school boards. The founding fathers thought it best to keep education in state and community hands; they said nothing about it in the Constitution, even though they prized it highly.

The first federal education law was the Land Ordinance Act of 1785 which authorized the sald of the enormous public domain and pre- scribed that one thirty-sixth of that land, or the proceeds from the sale thereof, be set aside for educational purposes. It be- came thiB forerunner of the public school systems of the United States. Not for seventy-five years did the Congress again involve itself in education when, in 1862, the first of two Morrill Acts established the land grant college system for the encouragement of the agricultural and mechanic arts. The federal role under the Morrill Acts was in the form of land grants and modest annual pay- ments with few strings attached. In 1867, the federal government created a non-cabinet Department of Education, which was quickly downgraded and renamed the Bureau of Education and much later the Office of Education, to collect statistics and periodically report on the condition of education, a function that was performed quietly and modestly for the next hundred years. In 1917, under the pres- sure of World War I, the Smith-Hughes Act established a system of. support of vocational education in secondary schools. The Smith- Hughes Act was a departure from tradition in that it specified programs of education for particular groups of people. Prior aid had been general, handed out with the idea of fostering local initiative and self-government.

The New Deal set the stage for a transformation in federal policy and a fundamental change in public attitudes toward the federal role with respect to numerous functions that had theretofore been considered exclusively state, local, or private. In 1940, Congress passed the Lanham Act which established the principle of special federal aid to school districts unable to raise sufficient local revenue because of large federal landholdings or sudden in- fluxes of federal employees' children. This Act remains to this day immensely popular, in part because it authorizes funds for al- most 4,000 U.S. school districts with few restrictions on how money is used, unlike almost all federal education acts which have followed it.

In 1944, anticipating the end of World War II, Congress passed the Serviceman's Readjustment Act, better known as the G.I. Bill. This gave a substantial boost to higher education. Money under the Act could be applied to any private college as well as any public college, and even to a religious seminary. It is only in recent years that the federal government has begun to use what was origi- nally an unqualified grant to each serviceman as a means of forc- ing federal education regulation on individual schools. (New inductees are no longer eligible for G.I. Bill benefits.)

The federal government's next major step into education was taken in 1958 with passage of the National Defense Education Act. This legislation followed in the wake of public reaction to the 1957 launching of Sputnik, the Soviet space success that caught the American public by surprise. The NDEA authorized federal funds for a wide variety of educational activities, most of them in mathe- matics and the sciences.

The NDEA opened the door for a substantial increase in the federal educational role. Since its passage, Congress'has approved a plethora of education legislation. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 authorized unusual educational programs, several bypassing conventional educational channels. The Office of Economic oppor- tunity was established as a separate agency within the executive branch. With its demise in 1972, all OEO programs were either terminated or transferred to other departments. For exampld, Headstart and Upward Bound were transferred to the Office of Education.

In 1965, the Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Ed- ucation Act (ESEA). The largest amount of federal education .6unds are annually appropriated Under this landmark and comprehensive act. The same year also saw the passage of the Higher Education Act which established the student loan program. In 1968 came the Vocational Education Act which consolidated and extended all pre- viously existing federal vocational education programs. The Edu- cation Amendments of 1972 and 1974 provided federal muscle for equality of opportunity in education and have been the basis for all subsequent affirmative action regulations in education. In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, a federal program of extraordinary breadth which authorizes funds to aid state and local school districts in the schooling of handicapped individuals from ages three to twenty-one.

This year the federal government will spend more than $221 billion on education in over 300 different programs scattered among 40 different federal agencies. The major federal education programs are administered through the Education Division of the DeDartment of HEW where the education division has been since the Department's creation in 1953. HEW's education division is headed by the Assistant Secretary for Education who serves as the chief federal official for formulating education policy. Under the assistant secretary is the Office of Education headed by the Com- missioner of Education who oversees more than 120 separate programs involving a total annual budget in excess of $10 billion. Other parts of the Education Division-are the National Institute of Education, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Fund for the Immrovement of Postsecondary Education, and the Federal Interagency Committee on Education.

S. 210 AND H.R. 2444

The two bills agree that the federal government does not ade- quately recognize the importance of education, that there is a need to improve the quality of education, and that current federal laws and regulations are administered in an inefficient manner.

Concerning the fundamental controversy over the proposed depart- ment, namely that of control of educational policy, the House bill states that:

No provision of law relating to a Program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer or agency of the executive branch of the Federal government shall be con- strued to authorize the Secretary or any such officer or agency to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, adminis-Cra- tion, or personnel of any educational institution, school or school system; over any accrediting agency or associa- tion; or over the selection of librar,%.,, resources, text- books, or other instructional materials by any educa- tion institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.

On the same subject, the Senate bill provides that it is the in- tention of Congress:

to protect the rights of state, local, and tribal govern- ments and public and non-public educational institutions in the areas of educational policies and administration of programs, including but not limited to competency testing and selection of curricula and program content, and to strengthen and improve the control of such gov- er=ents and institutions over their own educational programs and policies.


H.R. 2444 provides for the creation of fourteen executive level positions, sixty-one supergrade positions with an additional fifteen superarade positions for a three-year transitional period. S. 210 provides for thirteen executive level positions, forty-two supergrade positions and the same fifteen transitional positions, in addition to an unlimited number of scientific, technical and professional emiolovees.

Both bills establish the principal officers as heads of the following new offices:

1) the Office of the Inspector General with the duties of investigating inefficiency, fraud, and abuse in education programs;

2) the Office of General Counsel;

3) the Office of Research and Improvement Functions with the duties of research, development and dis- semination of imoroved education and training practices;

4) the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education with the duties of administering programs relat- ing to elementary and secondary education;

5) the Office of Post-Secondary Education, with the duties of administering programs relating to J higher education;

6) the Office of Civil Rights with the duties of enforcing federal civil rights laws in education;

7) an office to administer functions relating to the education of overseas dependents of Defense Department personnel.

In addition, the bills establish these two standing committees:

1) the Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Edu- cation with a membership of twenty drawn from state and local officials, education and civil rights organization, and parent and student representatives.

2) the Interdepartmental Education Coordinating Committee with members from other federal de-' partments and agencies. (Such a committee currently exists, although in a much more restricted scope than the Senate bill pro- poses.)

Transfer of Functions

The bills provide for the transfer of the following federal edu- cation programs to the new department: FY 1979 Personnel Budget - S

From HEW

The Education Division consisting of: 4,168 12.7 bill.

1. The Office of the Assistant Secretary

A. National Center for Education Statistics B. Fund for the Improvement of Post- Secondary Education

11. The Institute of Museum Services

III. The National institute of Education

IV. The Office of Education

A. Office of the Commissioner B. Office of Planning C. Office of Management D. Bureau of Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau of Occupational and Adult Education F. Bureau of Education for the Handicapped G. Bureau of Post-Secondarv Education H. Office of Indian Education I. Bureau of Student Financial Assistance

The Office of Civil Rights 1,000 69 mill.

The Office of the inspector General 117 3.5 mill.

Gallaudet College, Howard University, The 178.8 mill. American Printing House for the Blind, The National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Health Professions Student Loans 10 10 mill.

Telecommunications Demonstration Programs 1 1 mill.

Nursing Loans and Scholarship Programs 30 31.5 mill.

From the Demartment of Defense

Schools for Overseas Dependents 9, 658 361 mill.


From the Decartment of ..Tustice

""he Law Enforcement Education Program 11

The Law Enforcement Intern Program 8 25 mill.

From the Demartment of HUD

The College Housing Loan Program 3 ill Mill.

From the Denartment of Agriculture

The USDA Graduate School a self-supporting institution

From the National Science Foundation

Selected Science Education Programs 90 58 mill.

15,416 $14.33 bill.


It can be seen from the foregoing that the Education Divison of HEW will make up the largest part of the new Department of Edu- cation. Yet, the total federal involvement in education is much larger than those HEW programs. Zven if the proposed department were created, a substantial portion of federal education programs would be omitted. As the following table indicates, federal out- lays for education will total more than $22 billion by the end of the current fiscal year. FEDERAL OUTLAYS FOR EDUCATION

Outlays (millions) Purpose and program 1977 1978 1979 a4tual estimate estimate

Office of Education: Ed ticationally deprived aildren ............................ 1,930 L 129 2.380 Support-uinovation consaudawn --------------------------- 173 194 209 Other elementary and secondary Profmma ------------------- 249 260 242 Federally afiected areas .................................... 765 810 781 Emergency Wiaol aid ..................................... 241 281 305 Education for the handicapped ............................. 249 367 562 Occupational. vocational. aawt ............................ 693 740 $03 Basic opporftiloitY grants .................................. 1.387 1.529 1,936 Other higher education student support programs .............. 1.170 1.038 1. M Other higher education .................... --------------- 320 305 339 Ubrary and instructional resources consolidation ............. 104 14 47 Student loan insurance and guaranteed loans ................. 130 717 722 Salaries and expenses ...................................... fig 131 126 Other Oifice of Education . ............................... 162 225 245 National Institute of Education ............................. 64 so 90 Special institutions .......................................... 154 166 185 Student gracts, Social Security Administration ................ 1,613 1.823 2.044 Human development services . .............................. 501 589 629 Other MET ............................... ............... 253 294 324 Other ..................................................... 597 697 M Subtotal. programs which are primarily educational ....... ii). 873 12.479 14,131 Federal oudays--,oducatiari support for other basic purposes- Health professions training ................................ 658 505 470 Veterans readjustment_ .................................... 3,406 Z 815 2,341 Default ................................................. 1.111 1.127 "3 Child nutrition ......................................... 1792 Z811 2.6" Other ................................................. 1.324 2.078 1.747 . Subtotal. education support for other purposes ........... 9.291 9,336 8.250 Federal outlays--Wary supplements .......................... 274 296 365

Total, education oudays ................. 20,433 22,111 746 Amounts previously carried for academic ; toward educational objectives .............................. 2.724 3.081 3,354

(Source: Special Analysis J, Budget of the United States Government, Office ot Management and Budget.

.Thus, in debates about the proposed new department, the fol- lowing federal education programs were considered but not included in either bill:

From HZI

Educational Broadcasting Facilities Program The Headstart Procram

From justice

Ouvenile Delinauency Programs


rom Labor

Vocational Rehabilitation Services Training and Youth Services

Zrom tne National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities

National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Humanities

From the National Science Foundation

All programs except the selected science education programs that were included.

From the Veteran's Administration

G.I. Bill Education Benefits

From Agriculture

Child Nutrition Programs Education Programs of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

The Smithsonian Institution


The proposed thirteenth department of the cabinet with a bud- get of $14.33 billion would be larger than the current departments of Commerce, HUD, Interior, Justice, and State. If federal govern- ment precedence is any indication, then the department can be ex- pected to grow in size and expenditures as soon as it is estab- lished. By way of comparison, the federal agencies that were con- solidated into the Department of Energy (established into law on October 1, 1977, that is, the first day of the fiscal year 1978) spent $5.2 billion in fiscal year 1977 and employed 18,078 civil servants. In 1973 the Department of Energy spent $8.2 billion and employed 19,500 civil servants. Estimates (by OMB) for fiscal year 1979 indicate a budget of $10.1 billion despite a drop in employemnt to 19,109. The recent history of the eleven other cabinet departments shows a similar trend: FULL-TIME PERMANENT CIVILIAN OUTLAYS IN BILLIONS EMPLOYMENT DEPARTMENT 1970 1978 (est.) 1970 1978*

Agriculture 8.3 22.6 116,012 84,800

Commerce 1.1 4.5 33,396 29,800

Defense 78.4 107.8 1,193,784 940,800

HEW 52.7 164.6 108,044 144,300

HUD 2.6 8.4 15,190 16,000

Interior .99 3.9 73,361 55,700

Justice .64 2.5 39,257 53,400

Labor 5.2 23.7 10,991 20,800

State .45 1.2 39,753** 28,700**

Transportation 6.4 14.4 65,985 72,800

Treasury 19.5 56.7 92,521 109,700

176.28 410.3 1,788,294 1,556,900

Source: Budget of the U.S'. Government, OMB; and Stat4stical Abstract of the United States, Bureau of the Census.

*Reflects the transfer of agencies when the Department of Energy was established. Also reflects other governmental reorganizations.

"Includes the Agency for International Development.


Equal opportunity and affirmative action seem to be prominent concerns of both committees. Thus:

The Congress of the United States finds that there is a continuing need to ensure equality of educational opportunity.

--House report on H.R.2444

It is the purpose of this Act to establish a Department of Education in order to continue and strengthen the Federal commitment to insuring access by every individual to ecual educational opportunity.

--Title 1, S-210

Federal enforcement of equal opportunity and mandating of af- firmative action is already the most pervasive of all the federal influences in education. in fiscal year 1978, HEW's Office of Civil Rights had a budget of $33.3 million and a staff of 1,102. An increase of 898 employees and $20 million in appropriations was authorized by Congress in the Supplemental Appropriations Act for 1978that cleared Congress on February 22, 1978. For fiscal year 1979, the C'If f ice was granted another increase of $19 million to bring the annual budget to $72 million. This represents an increase of 1,000 percent over the $7.2 million in expenditures of 1971, while the staff of the Office has increased 363 percent from the 550 personnel of 1971.

The Office of Civil Rights was established in 1966 to direct and coordinate the responsibilities assigned to HEW under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 11246. Since that time the Office has been delegated enforcement responsibility for the following laws:

Education Amendments of 1972 sex discrimination in, (Title IX) education

Rehabilitation Act of 1972 discrimination against the physically and mentally handicapped

Indian Self-Determination and educational assista nce to Education Assistance Act of 1974 Indians

Public Health Services Act of sex discrimination in medical 1972 (Sections 799A and 845) education

Drug Abuse Office and Treatment discrimination in the admis- Act of 1972 (Section 407) sion of drug addicts to hos-pitals

Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and discrimination in the admis- Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, sion of alcoholics to and Rehabilitation Act of 1970 hospitals (Section 321)

It can be seen from the above listing that the power of the Office of Civil Rights has been ever expanding since its creation in 1966. It can also be seen that all of the statutes concern edu- cation directly except the last two.

These statutes, and the federal regulations and supervision that go along with them, are used by the Office to govern virtually all actions with regard to faculty and staff -- recruitment, selec- tion, compensation, promotion, dismissal, and pensions -- of almost all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary educational systems or institutions. In addition, the statutes have been construed to govern the construction, features, and use of buildings; the admission, advancement, and graduation of students; and the grant- ing of financial aid. The statutes require the Office to investi- gate complaints, conduct periodic reviews, negotiate to secure compliance, conduct appropriate enforcement proceedings, and en- force compliance by all recipients of federal financial assistance.

In a recent study commissioned by Education Reviewer, Inc. and conducted by Roger Freeman, Senior Fellow Emeritus of the Hoover Institution, it was reported that more than half of all institu- tions of higher education responding had been contacted by a federal agency within the past three years with a demand to adopt, change, or abolish an operati'ng policy or practice. HEW's office of Civil Rights accounted for half of all contac 'ts, followed by, in descending order of frequency, the EEOC, other HEW offices, the Department of Labor, O@HA, the Civil Rights Comm*ission, and the Internal Revenue Service.

The cost to educational institutions of compliance with Lederal regulations is almost impossible to calculate. In 1976- 1977, HEW ordered twelve of the country's largest school systems to transfer several thousand white teachers and principals to pre- dominantly black schools and several thousand black teachers and principals to predominantly white schools -- or lose millions of dollars of federal funds. Under HEW regulations issued on April 28, 1977, colleges will be forced not only to admit handicapped students in order to comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1972, but also to undertake extensive structural and equipment changes in order to insure them access. Cost estimates have ranged into the billions.

In 1975, the Office of Civil Rights reinterpreted the civil richts laws to mean that colleges will be regarded as recipients of feaeral funds if students receive federal financial assistance, such as federally-guaranteed student loans or grants under the G.I. Bill. Up to that time, educational institutions were regarded as recipient institutions only if they received funds directly from the federal government. in December of 1977, the office announced the impending cutoff of federal funds from twenty-two small school districts and colleges because they had not -filled out the relevant federal forms in regards to sex discrimination. Almost all of them were not receivina federal funds at the time, but th6y were told that compliance w@s still mandatory because they would be ineligible .Lor such aid in the future without the completed forms -- which, in effect, declares that even non-recipient institutions are sub- ject to federal regulation because they are potential recipient institutions.


The most persistent fear about the establishment of a Del5art- ment of Education is that such a department would lead to a final federal takeover of education. As has been demonstrated above, the federal role in hiring and firing of teachers and other educationa-1 personnel, admission of students, and construction of buildings is already pervasive and can be expected to grow.

The federal role in educational research and development of curriculums has increased notably in the past decade. A. number of federal programs support and control, in varying degrees, projects for developing curriculums-,and teaching materials. Activities to disseminate and implement Yederally-supported curriculum materials have accompanied this growth. These activities range from simply identifying projects' existence to packaging products and'provi - ing funds for orientation, training, and consultation to adopters.

There has been little enthusiasm for developing of new'text- books, curriculums, and methods of instruction among local school districts and states because costs may be prohibitively high and new techniques have often proved unsuccessful. So, without federal incentives, local educators have not spent money and time on educa- tional research and development. As a consequence, almost no state and local resources have been devoted to educational research and development. The federal government has taken this role for itself.

Three federal agencies are heavily involved in educational re- search and development. They are:

The National Institute of Education

Created by the Education Amendments of 1972, NIE is the most active federal agency in supporting curriculum development, teacher training, instruction techniques, equal educational opportunity, and equity financing in education. With a proposed f1scal year 1979 budget of $100 million, NIE projects are designed to influence teachers, administrators, and decision-makers at all levels of edu- cation. By law, 90 percent of NIE's budget must be expended for research and development.


National Science Foundation

Created in 1950, the NSF initiates and supports, through con- tracts and grants, basic scientific research and programs to strengthen scientific potential and science education. NSFIS science education activities include supporting the development of science education materials for use by school systems at the pre-college level. The Foundation developed the "modern math" program of the 1960's which it continues to find successful even though few parents or teachers still defend it. The Foundation also developed and disseminated Man: A Course of Study (MACOS), a social science course of values education which has been the subject of wide con- troversy because it has been accused of undermining family values and patriotism. A sequal to MACOS, Exploring Human Nature, is now being tried out in several states. The proposed budget for FY 1979 is $850 million.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The Endowment was created to provide increased federal support to the humanities. Within the Endowment, the primary emphasis of the division of education programs is on projects that improve teaching and develop curriculum materials. The budget for FY 1979 will be close to $100 million.

In addition to the activities of the above agencies, funding and support for curriculum development and dissemination and for teacher training have been carried out under the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended,-- primarily under the following programs:

Title I -- education of disadvantaged children Title III innovative education projects Title VII bilingual education programs Title VIII health and nutrition programsf consumer education Title IX -- ethnic heritage studies

Since the Vocational Act of 1916, the federal government has been actively involved in vocational education curriculums. Such involvement is specifically mandated in the Act, as amended. In addition Ifederal funds go to support curriculum development in the Education of the Handicapped Act, the Right to Read Program, the Environmental Education Program, and the Indian Education Act.


Education is America's biggest industry. Total enrollment in educational institutions at all levels, public and non-public, reached 60,726,000 in 1978 -- about 27 percent of the population.


In addition, about 5.2 million are employed by educational institu- tions as teachers and in various other professional and non-profes- sional capacities. The Department of Commerce estimates that educa- tion consumed $120.1 billion in 1975 or about 7.9 percent of the Gross National Product. In the same year, health expenditures were 8.6 percent of the GNP ($130.4 billion), while expenditures for the national defense were 5.5 percent of the GNP ($84 billion). Since 1949, education expenditures as percent of the GNP have increased from 3.4 to 7.9 percent (an increase of 132 percent), health ex- penditures have increased from 4.5 percent to 8.6 percent (an in- crease of 91 percent), and defense expenditures have increased from 5.1 to 5.2 percent (an increase of 2 percent).

Despite this massive nationwide commitment, education 'is in turmoil. Although national SAT scores appear to have leveled off this year, they had declined for fourteen consecutive years. Edu- cation consumes 37 percent of the yearly budgets of state and local governments, by far their largest annual outlay. The costs to the taxpayer for education continue to soar, despite declining enrollments. In the past several years, nationwide controversies have erupted over education policies such as court-ordered busing, textbooks, basic skills, and parental fights over the education of their children. Voters are refusing to fund current education practices by refusing to approve new school bonds. In 1966, 72.5 percent of all proposed school bond issues, with a total par value of $2.4 billion, were approved by the voters. In 1971, ihe voters approved 46.7 percent of school bond issues with a total par value of $1.4 billion. In 1976, the voters approved 50.8 percent of school bond issues but with a total par value of only $970 miilion.

In recent years, control of educational institutions and edu- cational policy has been moving ever to the center. The numbers of agencies and school board members serving at the local level has declined since 1962, while the number of staff in state education departments has more than doubled over the same period. Along with that, the number of local school districts has declined from 17,995 in 1970 to 16,376 in 1975, a drop of nine percent. The increase in federal education expenditures and regulations has risen drama- tically as school bond approvals have declined and as local school districts have also declined.

The answer of the National Education Association (NEA), the Carter Administration, and congressional sponsors is to strengthen and expand the federal role. These proponents agree that a Depart- ment of Education is needed for the following reasons: 1) to give education more emphasis at the federal level, 2) to provide for more efficiency in administering federal education programs, 3) to improve federal enforcement of equal education opportunity, 4) to provide more assistance to state and local school jurisdictions in all areas of education, and 5) to promote improvement in every aspect of education.

opponents wonder how education can receive any more nation- wide emnhasis than it already has. Responding to the arguments of the proponents, thev contend that such arguments imply an inevitable federal domination of education, ranging from the employment of teachers to the writing of textbooks-, and that, in eifect, the new department would become a national school board. Opponents also maintain that the entire notion of a Department of Education is flawed since so many of the federal education and education-related programs are not slated for inclusion in the new department. Finallv, opponents worry that the education industry, faced with sharply declining enrollments, will use the muscle and visibility of the new cabinet department in order to initiate massive federal programs in the emerging education markets, examples of which are special education for the handicapped and other unique groupst career education and "lifelong learning" for adults, and child-care programs and centers.

Thomas R. Ascik Policy Analyst

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