U.S. Department of Education Faces Major Overhaul Under Conservative Plan, Project 2025

Overview:

Project 2025 dramatically restructuring the U.S. Department of Education, including eliminating or moving most of its programs to other agencies.

In the recently released Project 2025, the conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, proposes dramatically restructuring the U.S. Department of Education, including eliminating or moving most of its programs to other agencies.

The Heritage Foundation’s plan, outlined in a new report titled Project 2025, calls for redistributing the department’s programs across the federal government, eliminating those deemed ineffective, and eventually shutting down the agency entirely. If adopted, this plan would not only eliminate the Department of Education, enact a federal parents’ bill of rights, and create a universal federal school choice program. Despite many of these mandates requiring approval from Congress, many would be enacted through Executive Action.

The report, authored by Lindsey M. Burke, the director of the Heritage Center for Education Policy, states that, “Federal intervention in education has failed to promote student achievement. “After trillions have been spent since 1965 on the collective programs now housed within the department’s walls, student academic outcomes remain stagnant.

The plan recommends moving critical programs like Title I funding for low-income students to the Department of Health and Human Services and eventually eliminating the program. In addition, It also proposes converting federal education funding into block grants for states with minimal strings attached.

“In our pluralistic society, families and students should be free to choose from a diverse set of school options and learning environments that best fit their needs,” Burke said.

The proposal faces significant hurdles, as dismantling a Cabinet-level agency would require congressional approval. Democrats and teachers’ unions are likely to strongly oppose such efforts.

However, the plan provides a roadmap for how conservatives might approach education policy if they regain control of Congress and the White House in the November 2024 elections.

Critical elements in Project 2025 include expanding school choice programs, protecting parental rights, and scaling back the federal role in K-12 and higher education.

On school choice, the plan calls for expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to all students in the nation’s capital, regardless of income. It also proposes education savings accounts for children in military families and those attending Bureau of Indian Education schools.

For higher education, the report recommends privatizing federal student lending and eliminating loan forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The report states, “The federal government does not have the proper incentives to make sound lending decisions.”

The plan targets diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on college campuses, proposing to prohibit accreditors from mandating such policies at schools.

It also calls for stronger protections for faith-based institutions and free speech on campus.

 Some of the notable reforms outlined in Project 2025 include but are not limited to:

Project 2025: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

  • Reduce the number of programs managed by OESE, and transfer some remaining programs to other federal agencies.
  • Transfer Title I, Part A, which provides federal funding for lower-income school districts, to the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically the Administration for Children and Families. It should be administered as a no-strings-attached formula block grant.
  • Restore revenue responsibility for Title I funding to the states over a 10-year period.
  • Eliminate Impact Aid not tied to students.
  •  Move student-driven Impact Aid programs to the Department of Defense Education Authority (DoDEA) or the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education.
  •  Transfer all Indian education programs to the Bureau of Indian Education.
  • Implement The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers to low-income children living in the nation’s capital—appropriate as D.C. is under the jurisdiction of Congress—should be expanded into a universal program, formula-funded, and moved to the Department of Health and Human Services. Note: All other programs at OESE should be block-granted or eliminated.

Project 2025: Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

  • Transfer the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education’s few programs to the Department of Labor,
  • Move the Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Career and Technical Education Program to the Bureau of Indian Education.

Project 2025: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

  • Most IDEA funding should be converted into a no-strings formula block grant targeted at students with disabilities and distributed directly to local education agencies by Health and Human Service’s Administration for Community Living.
  • Transfer the Vocational Rehabilitation Grants for Native American students to the Bureau of Indian Education.
  • Phase out earmarks for a variety of special institutions, as originally envisioned.
  • To the extent that OSERS supports federal efforts to enforce our laws against discrimination of individuals with disabilities, those assets should be moved to the Department of Justice (DOJ) along with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

Office for Postsecondary Education (OPE)

  • The next Administration should work with Congress to eliminate or move OPE programs to ETA at the Department of Labor. l Funding to institutions should be block-granted and narrowed to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and tribally controlled colleges.
  • Move programs deemed important to our national security interests to the Department of State.

Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA)

  • The next Administration should completely reverse the student loan federalization of 2010 and work with Congress to spin of FSA and its student loan obligations to a new government corporation with professional governance and management.

Other Notable Project 2025 Mentions:

  • Eliminate the Head Start program, originally established and funded to support low-income families.
  • The Office of Civil Rights should move to the Department of Justice.
  •  Congress should pass, and the next President should sign a Department of Education Reorganization Act.
  • Eliminate the GEAR-UP program geared to create a pipeline from high school to college.
  • Thoroughly review the many education-related regulations promulgated by the Biden Administration, as well as the school meals program and the Income-Driven student loan program.
  • End time-based and occupation-based student loan forgiveness.
  • The new Administration must take immediate steps to rescind the new requirements and lessen the federal restrictions on charter schools.
  • Eliminate the PLUS loan program. The PLUS loan program, which provides graduate student loans and loans to the parents of undergraduate students, would be eliminated.

The plan aligns with long-standing conservative goals of reducing the federal footprint in education. Whether it gains traction depends largely on the results of future elections.

For now, it serves as a blueprint for how conservatives envision reshaping federal education policy and scaling back a department they view as ineffective and overreaching.

Note: The Educator’s Room will devote extensive time over the next four months to investigating this document and reporting on the impact of what we find.

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