View the ad here.
SUMMARY: Roby did say during a campaign appearance that she would like to see the U.S. Department of Education eliminated. Losing federal funding to state and local education would cost Alabama billions. However, Roby proposes eliminating the department, yet maintaining the funding in a different form.
ANALYSIS: Republican Congressional Candidate Martha Roby said during a campaign stop in Coffee County before the June primary election that she would choose to abolish the U.S. Department of Education if given the authority.
Her full response to the question “Is there one federal department or agency you would just get rid of entirely?” is available on YouTube by clicking here.
Roby's words: "You want an example? An example would be the U.S. Department of Education. We absolutely need … the U.S. Department of Education, all they are doing right now is handing down unfunded mandates to our local governments who are sitting in the best positions to make decisions about our children’s education, not bureaucrats up in Washington."
A television ad paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says “her plan would raise taxes in Alabama , driving up property taxes hundreds of dollars per year.”
State education funds come primarily from state and local income and sales taxes (79.26 percent), but about 9.9 percent of K-12 revenue comes from federal funds. Other sources include utility (7.23 percent) and use taxes (4.18 percent) and a handful of other revenue streams that contribute smaller amounts.
Craig Pouncey with the Alabama Department of Education said local school districts derive between 8 and 20 percent of their revenue from federal funds. School districts with a high per capita income receive a lower percentage of federal funds. The majority of local districts’ revenue comes from property taxes.
Losing 9.9 percent of the 2008 K-12 education budget would have amounted to a shortfall of about $426 million. The state has several options to consider to make up a loss of 9.9 percent in education funds. The main option for increasing local revenue, however, is an increase in property taxes, which must be approved by a majority of the voters.
Alabama has also received a sizeable amount of federal stimulus assistance to K-12 education totaling $1.1billion as of Aug. 3, 2010.
Roby said that while she supports eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, she would maintain federal funding for state and local school budgets. She said the primary purpose of eliminating the department would be to bring more decisions closer to the classroom and to “cut waste” from the Federal Government. The U.S. Department of Education has about 4,200 employees and a budget of $63.7 billion
“I’ve made it very clear throughout this campaign that we need to find areas to reduce wasteful spending and cut inefficiency and duplication out of the federal government. The Department of Education is just one example of a place we can start to reduce the size of government. I believe the best ideas on education come from places like Deatsville and Dothan , not from Washington . Bureaucrats sitting in an office thousands of miles away do not know what’s best for the child sitting in an Alabama classroom: teachers and parents do. I believe in reforming the education system by increasing local control and flexibility and making sure our federal taxpayer dollars are spent effectively in the classroom. Right now that is not happening,” Roby said in a statement on her web site.
Roby also spoke on the issue during a televised debate on WTVY in Dothan earlier this month.
“If by downsizing the ( U.S. ) Department of Education, we could take that funding and use it in the classroom, but unfortunately, that is not what is happening,” Roby said during the debate.