The federal government is threatening to withhold federal education funding from local school districts that disobey the recent Obama administration bathroom directive.
The directive, issued via letter from the Departments of Education and Justice, mandates that public schools affirm a student’s chosen gender identity by allowing the student to use whichever showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms correspond to his or her chosen gender identity, regardless of his or her biological sex.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called the federal government’s threat “blackmail,” saying that the president “can keep his 30 pieces of silver,” referring to federal education funding that is sent to states.
Texas and officials from ten other states recently filed a lawsuit against federal agencies and administration officials, asking a federal court to overturn the directive, which was decreed by the executive branch without any congressional vote. The plaintiffs claim that the directive exceeds the executive branch’s authority and violates the tenth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution.
As states count the risk of losing federal education funding, it is important to understand how that funding is used.
Here in Washington, just 8 percent of a local school district’s budget comes from the federal government. Most of that money comes in the form of categorical grants that fund programs for disadvantaged students, such as special education, school lunches, Head Start, transportation services, and others.
It is unconscionable that a presidential administration would bully local school districts by threatening to withhold funding for programs aimed at helping low income and disadvantaged students unless they adopt the agenda of social experimentation foisted upon them by federal bureaucrats. Local school districts should consider using this as an opportunity to finally liberate their budgets from federal education funding and the strings that come with it.
The burdensome mandates that accompany federal funding give federal officials significant control over the affairs of local schools. It is estimated that the regulations that accompany federal education funding saddle states and local school districts with 7.8 million hours of administrative work, costing local schools $235 million annually and converting them into bureaucracies that must do the bidding of the federal government for fear of losing their federal funding.
Federal mandates also hinder innovation and experimentation by creating a one-size-fits-all regulatory scheme. The good news is that states and local school districts can escape many of these obligations by choosing to refuse federal education funding.
Students benefit when local communities – not distant, unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. – retain control over their schools. Maintaining local control over education allows schools to be more responsive to the unique needs of students in their communities. Because of this, Washington schools and students would be in a better position if state and local education officials use this opportunity to rid themselves of federal education funding and the onerous regulations that accompany it.
Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and 2016 Research Fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.