THE UNFORTUNATE and misguided bill to establish a federal Department of Education is to come to the Senate floor today. Like much unfortunate and misguided legislation, it is likely to be passed. But before that happens-and the voting is some time off-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) intents to propose an amendment to make the new department significantly more multifaceted, more interdisciplinary, and in every respect more complete.
As he looked over the present bill, the senator perceived that it would leave a great many of the president federal education programs out of the new department. The senator's amendment would put them all in. The bill, for example, would leave the school breakfast program in the Agricultural Department, and Indian schools in Interior. The Moynihan amendment would put them in the future Education Department. It would take the international educational exchanges away from the State Department, aviation education away from the Transportation Deparment, and everything from Head Start to health manpower training out of HEW. The senator would similarly give the Education Department the Smithsonian's Wilson Center for Scholars, the EPA's training grants and Action's Youth Challenge. His position is that, if we're to have an Education Department, we might as well put all of the federal education functions into it.
The senator, as you may have gathered, is no friend of this bill. The bill's authors drafted it, with great skill and tact, to exclude all of the programs that are defended by bureaucratic and political interests too strong to challenge safetly. The future department is mainly supported by one very large organization, the National Education Association, which can reasonably expect to command much influence in its conduct. All those who disagree with the NEA on policy, or fear being overrun by it, are naturally anxious to keep their programs out of its new department.
It is also true that to create a federal Department of Education would imply an intention to expand federal jurisdiction over the schools. Education has always been primarily a responsibility of the states, a wholesome tradition that deserves to be continued and one, incidentally, that is much honored in debates on the Senate floor. It would nice if the Senate were to act on all these pieties when the vote is finally taken. If it doesn't, it would serve them right to end up with the Moynihan monstrosity added to what is already a pretty monstrous bill.