Today at a big wing-ding on federal education research sponsored by Education Sector and several other groups , former Deputy Secretary of Education Marshall (Mike) Smith agreed that it was probably a mistake to have carved the Education Department (ED) out of the old Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

I was half-serious when I first said this, citing Moynihan and Califano (celebrated opponents of ED's creation, both) and teeing off Russ Whitehurst's comment that the Department of Health and Human Services now spends a vastly larger fraction of its discretionary budget on R & D than does ED. Smith was serious, citing evidence that one of the largest contributors to weak student achievement and even worse problems for kids and school systems is health issues (he focused on tooth decay leading to rampant infection leading sometimes to death) besetting American children, especially poor ones.

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