Federal Education Policy and Politics: Federalism and More

Source: Politico.com
Source: Politico.com

In this article for Politico, I show how federalism has fostered a chronic ideological battle around the federal role in schooling. “The Constitution didn’t authorize the federal government to make schools policy. It is not among the enumerated powers in Article I section 8, and the 10th Amendment reserves powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution to the states and the people….” (Read more at Politico.com)

The below 1963 Herblock comic exhibits other aspects of the perennial politics of education: spending concerns, and the notion that federal school aid can and should reverse the effects of poverty and crime. (The comic is notably liberal—depicting the opponent of federal aid as old and and histrionic.)

Source: Library of Congress
Source: Library of Congress

Department of Education Abolition Act of 1868

Source: Statutes at Large
Source: Statutes at Large

It is a little known fact that the Department of Education was first established in 1867. Rep. James A. Garfield (R-OH) sponsored the legislation. The legislation authorized a mere three employees and its duties were few but not insignificant. President Andrew Johnson signed it.

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Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools Records

Source: NARA.gov
Source: NARA.gov

The National Archives and Record Administration has the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which operated schools for American Indians. The archival holdings are listed at: http://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/bia-guide/schools.html. The federal government started making education policy for American Indians as early as 1819 with the Indian Civilization Act, which authorized funds to be granted to religious and private groups to school American Indians. (On the boarding schools, see here.) Eventually, the U.S. government itself via the Department of the Interior’s BIA began operating its own schools.


Recommended Books On Federal Education Policy History

Have suggested titles? Please e-mail me at: kevinrkosar [at] gmail.com !

Gareth Davies See Government Grow

Francis Adams, The Free School System of the United States (London, 1875)

David L. Angus and Jeffrey E. Mirel, The Failed Promise of the American High School, 1890-1995 (New York: Teachers College Press, April 1999)

David K. Cohen and Susan L. Moffit, The Ordeal of Equality: Did Federal Regulation Fix the Schools? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009)

Gareth Davies, See Government Grow: Education Politics from Johnson to Reagan (University of Kansas Press, 2007)

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Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education

Failing Grades The Federal Politics of Education Standards

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Summary. Presidents from both parties, supported by parents, teachers, and civic leaders have tried and generally failed to increase student achievement through federal policy-making.  Supposedly path-breaking legislation to “leave no child behind” has hardly made a dent in the problem.

What is going on?  Kevin R. Kosar delves into the political maneuvering behind the crafting of federal Continue reading “Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education”

Ronald Reagan and Education Policy

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Ronald Reagan entered the presidency promising to return K-12 education policy back to states and localities.  Ironically, Reagan ended up both expanding and legitimizing the federal role in schooling.

How did this happen?
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