Some gratuitous advice on how to dismantle ED

By , Education editor of The Christian Science Monitor

We can't resist the urge to help President-elect Reaganhs transition team plan the dismantling of the Department of Education (ED). Possibly team members have already though of these solutions, but we've been mulling them over ever since candidate Reagan said he would do away with the department.

A significant portion of its budge goes to, and more than half of its personnel teaches in or administers, US-type schools overseas for the school-age children of military personnel. The obvious solution, and it's our recommendation, is that these schools be placed in an education division within the Department of Defense.

Another significant portion of the department's budget is in vocational, technical, and industrial education programs. We'd like to see this effort moved to an education division in the Department of Labor.And further, we'd like to see a complete turnabout in financing between workstudy and cooperative education.

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At present, work-study gets nearly half a billion dollars in support, while coop ed is funded at less than $15 million. The purpose of work-study is to provide paying jobs for in-school youth, while coop ed ties paying jobs to each student's academic program.

It is our recommendation that the Labor Department support coop ed programs at below minimum wage for secondary school pupils, and at minimum wage for postsecondary students. We favor cooperative programs that have students a half day in school and a half day on a job, or 10 weeks in school and 10 weeks on a job. Each student, in such an arrangement, would be half of a pair, ensuring that the job were filled full-time and that school staffs would have full-time employment.

And we would excuse the federal government from any support of work-study programs, asking instead that the private sector and state and local governments carry that responsibility.

We are eager to maintain a strong professional staff particularly concerned with legal issues in education, especially civil rights. This legal staff should find a ready home in the Department of Justice.

At the present time, we are told, the Department of Education legal staff is swamped with unjustified audits, with hundreds of cases alleging discrimination in hiring practices, with grossly entangled desegregation suits, and with allegations that college and university athletic departments are discriminating against women.

If, as President-elect Reagan insists, there is enourmous fraud in government , then it's through legal channels that such cases must be uncovered and corrected. And we feel that the Justice Department is the natural vehicle for carrying out his work -- even for those issues that are education-related.

To recap: We would move administration and staffing of Department of Defense schools to the Defense Department. We would move the Education Department's legal staff to the Justice Department. And we would move all vocational and adult education to the Labor Department.

And we would ask that each education program undergo thorough evaluation -- that research-and-development funds be tied directly to each program.

As for national research on education issues, we would ask for the complete dissolution of all programs now overseen by the Education Department's assistant secretary for educational research of a national, cross-discipline, and cross-state type, we would call on the independent Education Commissions of the States, providing it with generous federal funding to carry out longitudinal research and dissemination projects.

And, to stimulate state funding of educational research, we would ask for federal funding -- perhaps with a five-year limit to encourage a state takeover of the costs -- of an R&D office in each of the 50 states the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Then we would place in the Department of Health and Human Services all funding programs tied to income -- this would include funding under Title I and grants for those eligible for postsecondary schooling. If money is needed to help non-English- speaking schoolchildren, then HHS is the place to deal with that human service. The same is true for students with learning disadvantages as well as physical handicaps.

There is no need for an office at the federal level of deal with nonpublic education. This type of activity rightfully belongs in state department of education.

And now to sovle the hard problem -- a national representative for the United States comparable to the minister of education in other nationa. Such a person has to have the stature of a commissioenr or secretary of education, but since education is a state prerogative in the US, and there is no federal minister, some suitable substitute needs to be found.

We recommend that this be a one-year appointment on a 50-year rotating basis. Each state's secretary of education, starting with Alabama and ending with Wyoming, should have a dual appointment -- as US minister of education and, in 1981, for example, state superintendent of education for Alabama.

What's patently obvious, if there is to be no special office or department of education at the federal level, is the need to strengthen state departments of education. This, of course, is a state and not a federal responsibility, but perhaps an i(centive -- in the form of revenue sharing -- will be necessary to help with this transition. Which leads to the last recommendation:

That each state receive, ont he basis of enrollment in public schools and colleges, funds to be used at the discretion of each state department of education. Funds not tied to research and development, or needs of the poor and handicapped, but funds to be used to improve the quality of education in the public sector, from preschol through post-doctoral studies.

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