(UPDATED, 1:39 p.m. Tuesday, with comments from Fulcher’s campaign.)
The federal government needs to cut spending, and eliminating the U.S. Department of Education is “a real good place to start,” congressional candidate Russ Fulcher said Sunday night.
Fulcher, a former state senator from Meridian, made the remarks during a Republican 1st Congressional District candidates’ debate on Idaho Public Television.
“There really does need to be an aggressive stance on the reduction in spending,” said Fulcher. “And there’s a real good place to start and that’s the federal Department of Education, potentially the elimination or reduction of the EPA, and a lot of the foreign aid that does not have to do with homeland security for America or military support for America.”
The remarks on the Department of Education were something of a departure for Fulcher.
In an Idaho Education News interview in October, Fulcher said he would just as soon get rid of the department. But he acknowledged that this would be a difficult task, partly because states have grown dependent on federal dollars and federal support.
“I’m not a slash-and-burn kind of a guy,” Fulcher said at the time. “It is incredibly difficult to unwind a bureaucracy.”
On Tuesday, Emily Larsen of the Fulcher campaign said Fulcher did not suggest eliminating the education department entirely. Rather, Larsen said, Fulcher “was suggesting an aggressive spending cut.”
For Idaho, the stakes are considerable.
Idaho receives about $264 million a year in federal education funding. Much of the money goes to Title I, which provides federal support for schools with high poverty rates.
Current 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador has co-sponsored a bill to eliminate the Department of Education. But the Republican gubernatorial candidate does not see his bill as a budget-cutter. He says he still envisions federal education dollars flowing to the states, but with no strings attached.
Fulcher’s remark was the only substantive reference to federal education policy; the 90 minute debate focused largely on health care, immigration and the Trump administration.