Paul sought in the 1980s and 1990s to eventually abolish all public schools; but by the 2008 presidential election campaign, he had adopted a more moderate stance. Paul insists that “the federal government has absolutely no role in education” under the Constitution, “regardless of what the Supreme Court has claimed.” He argues that the best way to improve the quality of education while fighting rising costs, growing numbers of dropouts, and higher levels of violence and drug use among students is to reduce the reach of centralized government in the schools and return control over school curricula, funding, and administration back to parents and local communities.
He has long opposed the idea of federally-mandated testing being used to measure student performance against federally-determined national education standards. He voted against national testing measures first proposed by the Clinton administration; and he similarly has never supported the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which he voted against when it was proposed in 2001.
Paul is a proponent of school choice, saying that private, parochial, and home schools provide a healthy counterweight to “the near monopoly control over indoctrination of young people” of the public schools, which he considers “socialist”; and he notes that the nation’s Founders themselves were largely home-schooled or taught in church-associated schools. In support of school choice and local control of education, he has introduced into every Congress since 1997 measures to provide families with education tax credits. His Family Education Freedom Act would give families a tax credit of up to $5,000 per student to pay for any educational expenses whether the student attends public, private, or parochial school, or is home-schooled. His Education Improvement Tax Cut Act would provide families with an additional tax credit of up to $5,000 for donations of cash or educational materials made to schools of their choice. He has said of the latter proposal, “The Education Improvement Tax Cut Act relies on the greatest charitable force in history to improve the education of children from low-income families: the generosity of the American people. As with parental tax credits, the Education Improvement Tax Cut Act brings true accountability to education since taxpayers will only donate to schools that provide a quality education.”
Although Paul supports the right of state and local school districts, under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, to implement education voucher plans, he rejects federal government-controlled school voucher plans, preferring federal education tax credits instead. He regards federal voucher programs as a form of “taxpayer-funded welfare” in which money is taken from middle-class families to unfairly provide private-school educations to a particular group of children favored by politicians and bureaucrats. He also worries that with federal school vouchers inevitably come further central government regulation and loss of local control over education. Private, religious schools, for instance, would feel pressured to conform to government dictates in order to become accredited by the Department of Education to qualify for participation in the voucher program. He points to how the federal government has used the threat of cutting off funding to dictate to universities which policies they must accept; he argues that the government would try to do the same with private schools.
Paul asserts that access to “education is not a right.” He opposes all federal government scholarships and government loans for higher education, but is supportive of the offering of financial aid by private organizations.
In a March 2, 2011 interview, when asked whether the government should provide financial aid to a poor student with good grades who wants to further his education, Paul responded that no, the government should not because “nobody has a right to someone else’s wealth. You have a right to your life and you have a right to your property but you don’t have a — education isn’t a right. Medical care isn’t a right. These are things you have to earn.” (He went on to explain that there were no government loans when he went to school, yet education costs were much lower and he was able to finance his medical school education by obtaining private loans through the medical school.)
Paul’s “Restore America” budget plan, which he laid out in October 2011, calls for the immediate elimination of the Department of Education. College Pell grants and other federal financial aid programs would be transferred to another branch of government during a transition period, following which all federal financial aid for education would be eliminated.
Abolish Public Education: Privatize All Schools – Ron Paul