Conflict, consternation, and litigation has spread across college campuses ever since a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Obama administration’s Office of Civil Rights launched a vast expansion of the Title IX bureaucracy. This Nixon-era law originally focused on banning relics of the past, such as male-only vocational education, but later was expanded by federal bureaucrats to enforce gender equity in college athletics, leading to de facto quotas. Since then, it has accrued new powers not because new powers were conferred by an act of Congress, but because executive branch administrators decided to reinterpret this 43-year-old statute to advance their political agenda.
The result? A flurry of lawsuits, breakdown of due process, and hastily established campus tribunals to adjudicate allegations of sexual assault and other crimes traditionally handled by the criminal justice system. Undeterred by this unfolding disaster in higher education, the Department of Education, via a new “Dear Colleague” letter, is now warning K-12 public school administrators that their federal funding will be at risk if they don’t embark on a similar course.
Few items of local politics are as explosive as school board politics. Watch for the reaction as the Title IX juggernaut comes to an elementary school near you.
I’ve seen the impact of Title IX expansion on my own alma mater, where a phalanx of college administrators has been hired to handle the growing investigatory, adjudication, and enforcement duties that are better handled by police and courts. Much of this is driven by awareness campaigns aimed at reengineering campus culture through aggressive promotion of victimology and identity politics. Unsurprisingly, the growing workload keeps these administrators clamoring for ever larger budgets, driving ever higher tuition bills.
“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” If the Declaration of Independence is to still be accorded the kind of attention it should get in school, it’s to remind young minds of the tyranny of unbridled executive power, such as that once wielded by King George. But with longstanding concepts of liberty falling out of fashion in favor of postmodern indoctrination in politically correct cultural norms (nice to meet you, please don’t report me if I don’t use your preferred pronoun), it’s no surprise that swarms of harassing officers are meekly accepted as a fact of life.
So, what gives the federal government such vast powers to remake private and public, state and local educational institutions? The answer is: Follow the money.
But first, let’s follow the history. During FDR’s administration, the Supreme Court reinterpreted the “general welfare” introduction to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution to mean congressional spending bills were no longer limited to the items listed therein. That created an open-ended invitation to spend, but with a special hitch (See Helvering v. Davis). Washington still could not arbitrarily order the states to enact costly new programs. But it could offer to pay for just about anything central planners in Washington dreamed up, inviting states and local institutions, both public and private, to take the money. And since he who pays the piper calls the tune, the feds could dictate policy by threatening to cut off funds for the non-compliant, now addicted to federal largess.