By Kevin Kuzma, Editor
The suggestion was made sometime last year: The Department of Education served no good purpose. In fact, it clearly meddled more in education matters at every level than it did offer solutions, and therefore was a failing government organization that should be abolished.
Despite the constant attacks on its schools and an orchestrated campaign between Department officials and investors who short stocks, the notion to do away with the Department of Education didn’t originate with for-profit schools. The suggestion came from Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite who won the Republican Senate nomination in Nevada. Angle, who failed to win the seat, was labeled an extremist for her thoughts about the Department and other subjects. Her perspective about the Department, though, was merely perpetuating a position that has been common to some high-ranking Republicans.
With the way the Department conducted itself during the most recent regulatory process, extremism now hardly seems to apply to Angle’s notion.
On Friday, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) announced that it had filed suit with the Department. After more than a year of trying to abide by the rules of the Department’s game, it’s taken a lawsuit to get the Department to focus on the issues as for-profits see them.
In 2010, the Department of Education furthered the accusations of naysayers, fulfilling the prophesy of an organization that served no mission and had become over time nothing more than a bureaucracy, an obstacle that caused the education community more issues than it solved. The Department proved that it obstructs more paths than it clears, complicates more matters than it simplifies, and adds needless additional stress to the objective of increasing access to education among Americans.
Nearly every move in the Department’s regulatory battle with for-profit schools over the last year encapsulated the claims of an organization interested in increasing its power for no good reason. The Department’s rules were an overreach of its responsibilities and, if implemented as suggested, will make the department larger with new employees who will need to conduct reviews of for-profit colleges.
Friday’s lawsuit focuses on halting the implementation of three specific regulations – no doubt were the ones that APSCU felt would be found the most flawed in court. The three rules in dispute involve the state authorization of colleges, incentive compensation for recruiters, and misrepresentation of colleges’ programs and results.
These new regulations – and the pending “gainful employment” rule – are nothing more than an extension of the same old educational elitism we’ve seen forever from the more "traditional" side. This sort of behavior has drawn the ire of Republicans for years.
For years after its introduction, abolishing the Department was a common political position among Republican politicians. During the 1980 presidential election, even Ronald Reagan pledged to abolish it. In 1994, McCain supported cutting the Department during the Republican Revolution.
Strangely enough, it was another Republican who caused the Department to grow. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act grew the Department by 69.6 percent in only two years.
But now we know there was a number of different factors that prevented the Department from conducting its regulatory process in a more professional (and entirely opposite) manner. Now we know the higher-ups in the Department were willing to act unethically at every possibly opportunity in order to take down our sector.
For no reason except their own short-sightedness, they chose not to work in partnership with our sector to better understand the work our schools do, how they operate, and what advantages they hold in comparison to other types of institutions of higher learning. The Department simply knows better than us. They don’t trust for-profit entities. And now they have a big, big mess on their hands.
The Department’s abolishment might have once seemed extreme. But given the clear corruption, the abuse of power, and the forwarding of rules that limit access to higher education among minorities and frankly can’t be executed as written, the Department is strangling on its own red tape.