CEDAR FALLS — The president’s role in education is to have no role in education, according to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann — and if elected to the presidency, she said, she would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education.
The Minnesota Republican spoke Wednesday at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, as part of a series of forums the university is holding along with Iowa Public Radio to highlight candidates’ views on education policy.
During Bachmann’s 30-minute speech, she recounted the importance of education in her life while she was growing up in Iowa and Minnesota. And in the question-and-answer session that followed, she said the details of that education should be up to state and local governments.
It’s not the job of the federal government and the president of the United States to set education policy, Bachmann said.
“We didn’t have a Department of Education when I was a child,” she said. “It consumes billions of dollars that I’d much rather see stay here.”
Bachmann reiterated that point as members of the public lined up to ask questions about the education issues facing Americans and Iowans. Queries about her views on equitable access to education resources, early childhood learning, music and arts in schools and the teaching of intelligent design all led her to say those should only be state and local issues.
She did comment on her personal views on some of those topics, such as her belief that removing the teaching of intelligent design from science classes amounted to government censorship. But she always returned to her overall view that it was not the president’s job to make these decisions.
That led moderator Ben Kieffer to ask Bachmann if she saw any federal role at all in education.
“No, I don’t,” she said.
Bachmann said that in conversations with Iowa superintendents, the school officials have told her they would prefer to see all national funding of schools cease if it meant they would be freed from federal rules and regulations.
“The money they get is less than compliance costs. It ends up costing them more money,” she said.
She declined to identify the names of those superintendents, saying she did not want to divulge that information without their permission.
Federal rules under the No Child Left Behind law can be restrictive and punitive, according to Nadene Davidson, a professor in UNI’s department of teaching. But she didn’t think eliminating federal support was the answer.
“I think there needs to be some kind of federal vision for education,” Davidson said. “As a country, we know the importance of good education, which tells me we do need a framework.”
Also during the event, Bachmann sympathized with college students complaining about the rising costs of education and student loans, citing a College Board study that found the cost of education was rising at twice the rate of inflation. She puts at least part of the blame on the federal government, saying that federal funds are driving increased costs in colleges.
Iowa Public Radio will broadcast a recording of the forum in its entirety at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1.