Ron Paul: Ventura Right about Education

Published April 1, 1999

Instead of fighting over what type of federal intervention is best for the nation’s schools, “Congress should recognize that Governor Ventura is right” and get Washington out of education, says Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas). The solution to America’s education lies not in continuing what Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura describes as “this big circle of sending . . . money to Washington and then Washington returning it to us,” but in giving complete control of America’s educational system to the states and people.

“Why should Washington be involved at all in states’ education?” the Reform Party’s Ventura asked on “Meet the Press” on February 20 when he visited Washington, DC for the National Governors Association meeting.

Only four short years ago, the views of Paul and Ventura would have been common currency among Congressional Republicans, who then viewed federal aid to education as usurping the authority of state governments and local school boards. No more. While the Republicans of 1995 were intent on abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, the Republicans of 1999 are just as intent on increasing the amount of money flowing through it.

“I think a lot of members discovered it’s easier to impeach a president than to do away with the Department of Education,” House Education Committee spokesman Jay Diskey told USA Today.

If President Clinton wants to be “the superintendent of schools in the United States,” as Republican National Committee spokesman Mike Collins puts it, many members of Congress seem to be running for the nation’s school board. With Americans rating education as their number one concern, Republicans want to make certain they are not wrongly perceived by the public as being “against” education. But in the process, they’re making Democrats look like fiscal conservatives.

For example, while working to remove as many restrictions as possible on federal aid to schools, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) on February 22 also proposed a 40 percent, $40 billion, boost in federal education spending over the next five years. That topped the $34.7 billion increase proposed a week earlier by President Clinton.

“We have to make the federal government’s contribution bigger,” said Domenici.

Two weeks before Domenici’s announcement, the chairman of the House Education Committee, Representative Bill Goodling (R-Pennsylvania), had criticized the Clinton Administration for not spending enough on education. For House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), his second-highest legislative priority is passing an education aid bill called “Dollars to the Classroom.”

In contrast to President Clinton’s call for more federal intervention in education, the Republican-controlled House Education Committee wants to give local officials more leeway over how they spend federal education dollars. While Paul sees the GOP approach as an improvement over that of the President, he faults the Committee’s “pseudo-federalism,” which still requires the states to submit to federally determined goals. Converting funding to block grants, says Paul, simply puts off debate about who should control education.

“The Tenth Amendment does not say that the states have the autonomy to determine how to best please Congress,” said Paul. “It says that both the means and the ends of the education system are solely within the authority of the states, localities, and individual citizens.”

To break with what he calls the “disastrous education policies of the past,” Paul will introduce three bills: the Family Education Freedom Act, the Education Improvement Tax Cut Act, and the Teacher Tax Cut Act. Those bills would provide a variety of educational tax credits for teachers, parents, and those who support scholarship organizations. Among the mechanisms he would use to pay for the tax cuts, Paul recommended reducing federal bureaucracy–for example, by shutting down the U.S. Department of Education.

Although any and all tax cuts are beneficial, said Paul, “only large educational tax credits aimed at improving K-12 education provide the type of bold action demanded by the American people.”

Ventura, who captured Minnesota’s chief executive spot last November in an unexpected Reform Party victory over two better-known politicians, left another message for both Republicans and Democrats while he was in Washington. He told them that if they didn’t wake up, “there will be more Jesse Venturas on the horizon.”

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.