Excerpt from a letter by the Rebbe in support of the proposed creation of a Special Department of Education, 1979.

. . I am certain that you will agree that the state of education in this country (as in many others) leaves much to be desired; that the status quo (as reflected in juvenile delinquency, etc.) is far from satisfactory, and, what is worse, has been steadily eroding; and that some determined nation-wide effort is called for to upgrade the quality of public education in this resourceful country.

I trust you will also agree that such an enormous effort, which is surely in the highest national interest, can come only from the Federal government with the fullest cooperation of State, County and City.

In my view, a separate, adequately funded Cabinet-level Department of Education, subject to legislative safeguards to ensure that the traditional primacy of States and localities in education affairs would not be jeopardized, could well meet the challenge.

The main reasons why I support the said proposal are as follows:

1. The creation of a distinct Cabinet-level Department of Education would have a salutary impact on all who are involved in education, particularly parents, teachers, and students. The very innovation of upgrading the status of Education from that of an adjunct to, or division of, another national agency, would pointedly underscore its proper place among the Nation’s highest priorities.

2. The workshops of child education are the school and the home. For various reasons, which need not be discussed here, contemporary parents in this country, as in many others, have virtually abdicated their educational responsibility, leaving the school and the street as the primary, almost exclusive, factors in the child’s education. Insofar as the street is concerned there is very little that can be done as things now stand. More can be done, and needs to be done, to get parents more involved in the education of their children. But in the final analysis it is the public school where the greatest improvement can and must be achieved.

3. Among the factors that lie at the roots of the shortcomings of public education, two—in my opinion—command primary attention: One has to do with the general curriculum, which should place much greater emphasis on character building and moral and ethical values. The other has to do with the quality of teaching—by qualified dedicated and motivated teachers. The latter point requires the upgrading of teachers’ salaries on par with comparable professions in other fields of science and relieving them, as far as possible, of other frustrations and stresses.

4. The upgrading of the Nation’s educational system will, of course, require considerable Federal spending. But this is one area where spending has built-in returns, not only in the long term, but also in almost immediate gains, in terms of diminishing expenditures in the penal system, crime prevention, reduction in vandalism, drug abuse, etc. In the longer term it would also bring savings in expenditure on health and welfare, and—one may venture to say—even in the defense budget, since a morally healthy, strong and united nation is in itself a strong deterrent against any enemy.

5. The creation of a separate Cabinet-level Department of Education, as ¡ understand it, has been conceived not for the purpose of merely improving administrative efficiency, nor merely as coordinator of existing programs, or for similar technical reasons. The main purpose is to breathe new life into the whole educational system of this Nation, and to involve the whole Nation, through its Federal government, in this massive and concerted effort. As such—I am convinced—it deserves everybody’s support.