October 11, 2000
HON. RON PAUL
- Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Michigan and the gentleman from Colorado for allowing me the opportunity to express my thoughts on the education reform debate that is sure to consume much of our time in the remaining days of the 106th Congress. For all the sound and fury generated by the argument over education, the truth is that the differences between the congressional leadership and the administration are not significant; both wish to strengthen the unconstitutional system of centralized education. I trust I need not go into the flaws with President Clinton's command-and-control approach to education. However, this Congress has failed to present a true, constitutional alternative to President Clinton's proposal to further nationalize education.
- It is becoming increasingly clear that the experiment in centralized control of education has failed, and that the best means of improving education is to put parents back in charge. According to a recent Manhattan Institute study of the effects of state policies promoting parental control over education, a minimal increase in parental control boosts students' average SAT verbal score by 21 points and students' SAT math score by 22 points! The Manhattan Institute study also found that increasing parental control of education is the best way to improve student performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests. Clearly, the drafters of the Constitution knew what they were doing when they forbade the Federal Government from meddling in education.
- American children deserve nothing less than the best educational opportunities, not warmed-over versions of the disastrous educational policies of the past. That is why I introduced H.R. 935, the Family Education Freedom Act. This bill would give parents an inflation-adjusted $3,000 per annum tax credit, per child for educational expenses. The credit applies to those in public, private, parochial, or home schooling.
- This bill creates the largest tax credit for K-12 education in the history of our great Republic and it returns the fundamental principle of a truly free economy to America's education system: what the great economist Ludwig von Mises called `consumer sovereignty.' Consumer sovereignty
- simply means consumers decide who succeeds or fails in the market. Businesses that best satisfy consumer demand will be the most successful. Consumer sovereignty is the means by which the free market maximizes human happiness.
- Currently, consumers are less than sovereign in the education `market.' Funding decisions are increasingly controlled by the federal government. Because `he who pays the piper calls the tune,' public, and even private schools, are paying greater attention to the dictates of federal `educrats' while ignoring the wishes of the parents to an ever-greater degree. As such, the lack of consumer sovereignty in education is destroying parental control of education and replacing it with state control. Restoring parental control is the key to improving education.
- Of course, I applaud all efforts which move in the right direction such as the Education Savings Accounts legislation (H.R. 7). President Clinton's college tax credits are also good first steps in the right direction. However, Congress must act boldly--we can ill afford to waste another year without a revolutionary change in our policy. I believe my bill sparks this revolution and I am disappointed that the leadership of this Congress chose to ignore this fundamental reform and instead focused on reauthorizing great society programs and promoting the pseudo-federalism of block grants.
- One area where this Congress has so far been successful in fighting for a constitutional education policy was in resisting President Clinton's drive for national testing. I do wish to express my support for the provisions banning the development of national testing contained in the Education Appropriations bill, and thank Mr. Goodling for his leadership in this struggle.
- Certain of my colleagues champion proposals to relieve schools of certain mandates so long as states and localities agree to be held `accountable' to the federal government for the quality of their schools. I have supported certain of these proposals because they do provide states and localities the option of escaping certain federal mandates.
- However, there are a number of both practical and philosophical concerns regarding these proposals. The primary objection to this approach, from a constitutional viewpoint, is embedded in the very mantra of `accountability' stressed by the plans' proponents. Talk of accountability begs the question: accountable to whom? Under these type of plans, schools remain accountable to federal bureaucrats and those who develop the state tests upon which a schools' performance is judged. Should the schools not live up to their bureaucratically-determined `performance goals,' they will lose their limited freedom from federal mandates. So federal and state bureaucrats will determine if the schools are to be allowed to participate in these programs and bureaucrats will judge whether the states are living up to the standards set in the state's education plan--yet this is supposed to debureaucratize and decentralize education!
- Even absent the `accountability' provisions spending billions of taxpayer dollars on block grants is a poor way of restoring control over education to local educators and parents. Some members claim that the expenditure levels for not matter, it is the way the money is spent which is important. Contrary to the view of the well-meaning but misguided members who promote block grants, the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on federal education does matter.
- First of all, the federal government lacks constitutional authority to redistribute monies between states and taxpayers for the purpose of education, regardless of whether the monies are redistributed through federal programs or through grants. There is no `block grant exception' to the principles of federalism embodied in the U.S. Constitution.
- Furthermore, the federal government's power to treat state governments as their administrative subordinates stems from an abuse of Congress' taxing-and-spending power. Submitting to federal control is the only way state and local officials can recapture any part of the monies of the federal government has illegitimately taken from a state's citizens. Of course, this is also the only way state officials can tax citizens of other states to support their education programs. It is the rare official who can afford not to bow to federal dictates in exchange for federal funding!
- As long as the federal government controls education dollars, states and local schools will obey Federal mandates; the core program is not that federal monies are given with the inevitable strings attached, the real problem is the existence of federal taxation and funding.
- Since federal spending is the root of federal control, by increasing federal spending this Congress is laying the groundwork for future Congresses to fasten more and more mandates on the states. Because state and even local officials, not federal bureaucrats, will be carrying out these mandates, this system could complete the transformation of the state governments into mere agents of the federal government.
- While it is true that lower levels of intervention are not as bad as micro-management at the federal level, Congress' constitutional and moral responsibility is not to make the federal education bureaucracy `less bad.' Rather, we must act now to put parents back in charge of education and thus make American education once again the envy of the world.
- Hopefully the next Congress will be more reverent toward their duty to the U.S. Constitution and America's children. The price of Congress's failure to return to the Constitution in the area of education will be paid by the next generation of American children. In short, we cannot afford to continue on the policy read we have been going down. The cost of inaction to our future generations is simply too great.