Perry Abandons Desire To Abolish Education Department, Now Just Wants To Cut It In Half

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry first launched his bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, he proudly pointed to the section of his book, Fed Up!, having to deal with the federal role in education. “I don’t think the federal government has a role in your children’s education,” he said. “I know there’s probably a few of you in here who have not read my book ‘Fed Up.’ But I talk about the intrusion into our lives by the federal government in a host of different areas. Education is one of them.”

Perry has quickly run away from many of the assertions he made in his book, and the federal role in education is evidently no exception. Perry yesterday rolled out his tax and budget plan, which cuts the Department of Education’s budget for elementary and secondary schools in half, but doesn’t abolish the department, as Education Week’s Michele McNeil observed:

Perry wants to cut $100 billion in federal non-defense spending, and one-quarter of that would come from the U.S. Department of Education, according to his plan. (His plan doesn’t appear to put a target timeline for achieving the full $100 billion in savings.) He proposes slashing half of all funding for elementary and secondary programs, which he estimates will save $25 billion in the first year, and sending that money back to the states.

Frankly, given all the talk in the GOP field about eliminating the Education Department entirely, I’m surprised he’s going to let those programs keep half their money. Perry has been no fan of the Education Department of late.

The federal government only accounts for about 8 percent of the nation’s overall funding for elementary and secondary education, but that 8 percent is incredibly important. Included in the pot of money Perry wants to cut is Title I funding for low-income students, all federal special education funding, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and several programs aimed at improving literacy.

So on the one hand, it’s nice to see that Perry has evidently disavowed his belief that the federal government has no role in education whatsoever. On the other, the deep cuts that he’s suggested would be extremely detrimental for the students and school districts that can least afford it.