Education Dept. added to list of agencies some lawmakers want to kill

The list of federal agencies on the termination list just grew by one more.

The Department of Education joins the Environmental Protection Agency and the Election Assistance Commission with bills in Congress with the goal of closing down the agency.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced a one-sentence bill, H.R. 899, Feb. 7 that would terminate the Education Department by Dec. 31, 2018.

“Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students,” Massie said in a statement. “Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school.”

Six Republican co-sponsors including Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) joined Massie in co-sponsoring the bill.

Gaetz introduced the bill to close EPA on Feb. 3. Gaetz’s bill has three co-sponsors including Massie.

Along with EPA and Education, the Election Assistance Commission, a bipartisan organization established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), received bad news from the House Administration Committee. Lawmakers approved two bills Feb. 7 — H.R. 634, Eliminating the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and H.R. 133, Eliminating the Presidential Election Campaign Fund —that would terminate the commission and move some of its duties to the Federal Election Commission.

The EAC is charged with supporting state and local election officials in their efforts to ensure accessible, accurate and secure elections.

“The existence of the EAC is not necessary to conduct federal elections and is a waste of taxpayer funds. The EAC was only meant to run temporarily following the 2000 election. Instead, this organization has taken federal resources for a decade and a half,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), chairman of the Administration Committee in a statement. “To date, most of its functions have come to a close, and those remaining are easily transferable to the Federal Elections Commission. What taxpayers have been left with is an agency that has outlived its usefulness, mismanaged its resources, and cost taxpayers millions.”

EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks said in a statement that the effort to close his organization is out of step with the current state of federal elections.

“At a time when the Department of Homeland Security has designated election systems as part of the country’s critical infrastructure, election officials face cybersecurity threats, our nation’s voting machinery is aging and there are accusations of election irregularities, the EAC is the only federal agency bridging the gap between federal guidance and the needs of state and local election officials,” Hicks said. “The EAC tests and certifies election systems and provides states with access to best practices to ensure accessible, accurate, and secure elections. It also provides vital information to millions of Americans seeking voter registration information and wondering where to cast their ballot. The EAC plays an essential role in strengthening our nation’s election system. Each day we hear from state and local election officials who need our help to navigate the challenges they face. We are focused on serving them and the American voters. Congress should remain a trusted partner in that effort.”

The commission says it employs about 30 people and has a budget of $8.1 million.

There are no companion bills in the Senate to eliminate EPA, Education or the Election Assistance Commission.

Massie’s bill comes as the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as the Education Department Secretary on Feb. 7.

The Education Department began in 1980 as a cabinet level agency, but efforts by the federal government to oversee the education process started in 1867 to collect information on schools and teaching that would help the States establish effective school systems, according to the Education Department’s website.

The department employs about 4,200 employees, and has a discretionary budget of $68.1 billion in fiscal 2016 and has a mandatory budget of almost $140 billion. In 2017, the Obama administration requested a $1.3 billion increase in discretionary spending.

The department says it has the third-largest grant portfolio among the 26 federal grant-making organizations, handing out more than $1.1 trillion, primarily from student loans.

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