Congressman Says We Don’t Need Education Funding Because ‘Socrates Trained Plato On A Rock’

CREDIT: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)

During a House Education and Workforce Committee proceeding on Wednesday to reauthorize the nation’s elementary and secondary education law, Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) said, “Socrates trained Plato in on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history.”

Watch (remarks start at 46:08):

He began his remarks by saying, “The greatest thinkers in Western civ were not products of education policy,” before mentioning Socrates and Plato. He later went on to say that he thinks the answer to improving education in this country “would be to get private sector folks into every one of our schools, get the CEOs in the schools and move beyond this just narrow policy debate and really have a revolution.”

The committee is considering a Republican version of reauthorization that could change the way federal funding is distributed to low-income students living in communities with high concentrations of poverty, or what is known as “portability.” To mitigate the challenges students face who are living in places with a high density of poverty, current law targets $14 billion to schools and school districts based on the number of students living in these communities. The Republican legislation would give states the option to allocate the same amount of federal dollars per poor student whether they live in a high poverty community or not. Under this provision, for example, Los Angeles Unified School District would lose out on more than $75 million while the Beverly Hills Unified School District would gain $140,000.

The bill was passed out of committee on Thursday on a party line vote after it refused to hold a congressional hearing on the legislation. The Senate, however, recently agreed to start over on a bipartisan approach to writing the bill.

Brat’s comments came the day before the U.S. Department of Education announced the national high school graduation rate had reached a record high, crediting significant federal investments in education.

Rep. Brat may not think formal education is important, but he himself was previously an economics professor at Randolph Macon College and holds both a Masters and a PhD.

Will Ragland is the Campaign Director of Education Policy at the Center for American Progress.