Revisiting Reagan’s “A Nation At Risk” Education report thirty five years later.

A Nation At Risk, The Atlantic

Evaluating education on a national perspective can cause more harm than good. The priority of any advanced nation needs to be in education. Balancing local control with national interest requires flexibility and a lot more funding.efin70l

Perhaps the main realization of public education after 35 years is that most small town can afford the quality professionals necessary to properly education young people in the 21st Century.

Misplaced funding on military weapons while cutting education leads to decline. Just ask President Dwight Eisenhower.

As a governor, Reagan made education reform a signature issue.

Governor Reagan slashed spending not just on higher education.
Throughout his tenure as governor he consistently and effectively
opposed additional funding for basic education.
The result was painful
increases in local taxes and the deterioration of California’s public
schools. …
Ultimately half the Los Angeles Unified School
District’s teachers walked off the job to protest conditions in their
schools. Mr. Reagan was unmoved.
Ronald Reagan left California public education worse than he found
it. A system that had been the envy of the nation when he was elected
was in decline when he left. (empahsis added)
Nevertheless, Mr. Reagan’s actions had political
appeal, particularly to his core conservative constituency, many of
whom had no time for public education
source: The Education Legacy of Ronald Reagan, by Gary Clabaugh


Reagan campaigned heavily on education reform, opposing the recently established Department of Education, a creation of the Careter Administration.


Ronald Regan is noted for the following policies and achievements on education:

  • Abolishing the Depatment of Education.
  • Supporting school vouchers.
  • Supporting, but not pushing for, prayer in school.
  • Teaching national pride in America while discouraging critical analysis of American History.
  • Replacing funding with hard work.
  • Tuition tax credits for families who sent their children to private schools.
  • Establishing college savings plans.

According to members of Reagans adminstratrion, including Reagan’s own Secretary of Education, T.H.Bell, the success of The Gipper on education was mixed, at best.

Education funding under Reagan went from $14.9b to $14.7b. Spending actually grew for many areas in education under Reagan, going against exactly what he campainged for. Spending for handicapped students and for Pell grants actually increased under Reagan, an expansion of govertnment spending and “entitlement” programs.reagancartoon

Reagan also ramped up spending on Historically Black Colleges, lavishing tasxpayer monies on these important indstitutions.

Administration officials also note that President Reagan, while he was seeking cuts in other higher-education programs, signed an executive order in September 1981 designed to ”achieve significant increases in the participation of historically black colleges and universities in federally sponsored programs.” This year such schools will receive $57 million in Federal funds, well above the $34 million they received last year.

Interestingly, Reagan wanted to increase government power over the children in public schools, but failed. This flies in contrast to his “government is the problem” ideology for which he is known.

His adminstration tried unsuccessfully to reduce health-related services for hanicapped studentrs, tired to weaken parent rights in determining student services for their children (increasing government control, in other words), and tried to give teachers greater control to discipline hanicapped children.

Yes, you read that right. The icon of small government wanted teachers to be able to inflict unregulated discipline on the most healpless Americans. How is that freedom? How is that not tyrannical? Silence is the only answer from his supportes living in denial.


Author: historydojo

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher with nearly twenty years of experience teaching high school history. I blog about teaching, history, current events, the law and social justice.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.