Famous law professor explains how Rand Paul could kill the Education Department

Laurence TribeREUTERS/Kevin LamarqueArguing on behalf of Nike Inc., Professor Laurence Tribe addresses reporters outside the Supreme Court as Nike co-counsel Walter Dellinger (R) stands beside him April 23, 2003

Republican Senator Rand Paul officially announced he’s running for president this week, and he has pledged to get rid of the US Department of Education if he’s elected.

We reached out to famous Harvard legal scholar Laurence Tribe to find out whether Paul would have the Constitutional ability to shutter the DOE for good.

The DOE was created in 1979 through the Department of Education Organisation Act, which was passed by Congress, and Tribe told us that “it would of course require another Act of Congress to eliminate the United States Department of Education.”

“There is no Constitutional obstacle to the enactment of such a law,” added Tribe, a legendary professor who counted President Barack Obama among his research assistants.

This makes Paul’s pledge to eliminate the DOE not a legally impossible feat, though it would certainly not be something that Paul could achieve on his own.

RTR4WEN9Reuters/John Sommers IISen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) announcing his presidential campaign.

“No president could eliminate the Department unilaterally, by executive order or otherwise,” Tribe told Business Insider.

A more likely explanation of Paul’s pledge to eliminate the DOE is that he would support the dissolution of the Department should that possibility come his way while he is in office.  

“I’m sure that Senator Paul is aware of that constraint on presidential authority and intended by his pledge only to say that he would push for the enactment of such legislation and would sign it if it reached his desk,” Tribe said.

Paul’s promise to eliminate the DOE was not simply pre-campaign rhetoric aimed at stoking the libertarian base in New Hampshire. The senator has a long history of calling for the elimination of the DOE that centres around his drive to dramatically slash federal spending, as well as his conservative ideological stances.

“I would rather the local schools decide things. I don’t like the idea of somebody in Washington deciding that Susie has two mommies is an appropriate family situation and should be taught to my kindergartner at school. That’s what happens when we let things get to a federal level,” Paul said at a Kentucky Senate debate in 2010.

And a 2012 budget plan that Paul released proposed drastic budgetary cuts — to the tune of $US500 billion —  of major federal agencies. The Department of Education was one of them, and his proposal would have eliminated all but the Pell Grant program.

Screen Shot 2015 04 08 at 11.03.18 AMRand Paul 2012 budget proposalRand Paul’s FY 2012 budget

On Tuesday, when Paul announced his bid for the presidency, he further crystallised his stance on the DOE. 

“I believe in more local control over education where states, localities, and parents can play a much more significant role in their children’s schooling. That’s one of the reasons I want to abolish the Department of Education,” he said in a campaign video.

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