The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Jimmy Carter
Department of Education Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Legislation.
February 13, 1979

To the Congress of the United States:

I am sending to the Congress today my proposal to establish a Department of Education.

There is a compelling need for the increased national attention a separate Cabinet department will bring to education issues. Our Nation's pluralistic education system, considered the most competent and open in the world, faces many problems and challenges: a decline in public confidence in the quality of education; unacceptably high rates of high school dropouts and of young people who lack basic educational tools and specific skills for productive employment; and increasing demands for retraining and learning opportunities.

The primary responsibility for education in our Nation lies with State and local government. The Federal government has a limited, but critical responsibility to help public and private institutions meet these challenges: to ensure equal educational opportunities; to increase access to postsecondary education by low and middle income students; to generate research and provide information to help our educational systems meet special needs; prepare students for employment; and encourage improvements in the quality of our education. The achievement of each of these goals will be enhanced by a new Department of Education.

Through our legislative and budget initiatives of the past two years, this Administration has given high priority to meeting these educational commitments. My budget for FY 1980 provides for $13.3 billion in education outlays, about a 45 percent increase above the level when I came into office. Last year, we established a legislative framework, the Middle Income Student Assistance program, to help solve one of our major education problems-the growing cost of a college education. The establishment of a Cabinet Department of Education will reflect the continued high priority my Administration places on education.

A Department of Education will bring our Nation's educational challenges and the Federal government's role in meeting them to the forefront of domestic policy discussion. Such discussion is vital to an activity that directly affects 60 million students, teachers and educational employees and constitutes a $120 billion public and private enterprise.

Establishing a separate Department will create, for the first time, a Cabinet-level advocate for education with direct access to the President, the Congress, and the public.

Second, it will give Federal education programs the full-time, high-level leadership and management that they cannot receive in a structure so large and complex as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. This will allow the Federal government to fulfill its responsibilities in education more effectively. It will eliminate duplication in the administrative and staff support activities within the Office of the HEW Secretary and the Education Division. It will allow improved financial management and more efficient administration of education programs. Separation of the education functions from HEW will also promote improved management of its closely-related health and welfare responsibilities.

Third, it will provide greater accountability. Submerged beneath HEW's dominant functions of health and welfare, Federal education programs lack full-time accountability at the Cabinet level. With a separate Department of Education, one Cabinet member will report directly to the President and be accountable to the Congress and the American people for the conduct of Federal education policies.

Fourth, it will provide simpler, more reliable, and more responsive support to states, localities, public and private institutions, giving them a direct line of Cabinet-level contact with the Federal government.

Fifth, the new Department will allow better coordination of education programs with related Federal activities, such as employment programs and research. It will also allow high-level consideration of the impact of other Federal policies, such as tax and energy, on education institutions and students.

Under the proposal I am submitting today, the Department of Education will include more than 150 programs and 16,200 employees. With a budget of more than $13 billion, this Department will be larger than five other Departments including Energy, Commerce, Justice, Interior and State.

In addition to the 140 programs in the Education Division of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the new Department of Education will handle educational activities now carried out by several other departments. These include: the U.S. Department of Agriculture School, certain science education programs of the National Science Foundation, the overseas dependents' schools of the Department of Defense, the college housing loan program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Law Enforcement Education and the Law Enforcement Internship Program of the Department of Justice, and the Migrant Education programs of the Department of Labor.

The proposed legislation establishes within the Department of Education separate Offices for Civil Rights, Elementary and Secondary Education, Postsecondary Education and Educational Research and Improvement, each headed by an Assistant Secretary. It establishes an office to administer functions related to the education of overseas dependents of Department of Defense personnel, an Inspector General, and a 20-member Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Education, appointed by the President, to promote better relations with the various levels of government and private institutions.

I urge the Senate and the House of Representatives to act promptly on this important proposal.

The White House,
February 13, 1979.

Citation: Jimmy Carter: "Department of Education Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Legislation. ", February 13, 1979. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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