From the moment the Department of Education was born, critics — Republicans, almost exclusively — have sought to dismantle it.
The department, created under Jimmy Carter, began operating in May 1980. Ronald Reagan, then campaigning against Carter for the presidency, marked the occasionin blistering fashion. “At 11:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday,” he said, “President Jimmy Carter’s new bureaucratic boondoggle was born: the Department of Education.”
Reagan went on to lay out what has become one of the Republicans’ primary arguments against the agency: “Welfare and education are two functions that should be primarily carried out at the state and local levels.”
As president, Reagan said, he would seek to dismantle the department. His first education secretary, Terrel H. Bell, arrived with a mandate to do just that, and initially proposed recasting the agency as a foundation, according to Education Week.But Bell grew convinced of the department’s value. During his second term, Reagan replaced Bell with William J. Bennett, who had no such qualms about calling for the agency’s elimination.