Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of the Establishment of the U.S. Department of Education: The Transformation of Federal Education Politics

Nela McCluskey Chris Cross Ron Kimberling Kevin Kosar 04-2020

Source: Cato.org. Kosar remarks start at 29:50.

Chris Cross and Ron Kimberling have spoken of the creation of the Department of Education and its earliest years in operation.

My own comments will focus on a broader issue of the Department of Education (ED) and the transformation of federal education politics. The establishment of ED was a major moment.

In short, the creation of the Department of Education rang the death knell for the very long national debate over the propriety of federal involvement in K-12 schooling. 

Consider one point: Forty years ago, it was well within the bounds of political discourse to argue that we do not need a Department of Education. Today, anyone who takes that position waved off as a libertarian or troglodytic paleoconservative. Today, you cannot be president by arguing that we really do not need a Department of Education. Continue reading “Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of the Establishment of the U.S. Department of Education: The Transformation of Federal Education Politics”

1833 act compensating Mississippi landowners to fund school building

1833 Mississippi school land deal
Source: https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=006/llsl006.db&recNum=630

Here’s an interesting law. This private bill seems to have said that two individuals who owned land should be compensated for their land and the land be given to erect schools. How much they were to be compensated is unsaid. presumably that decision was delegated to the U.S. Treasury, but more research is needed.

Was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 a Civil Rights Law?

LBJ Signing the ESEA
LBJ Signing the ESEA, 1965

Newly arrived Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., is in hot water with Congress, state governors and various school reformers. The Department of Education is moving forward with rules that would turn the Every Student Succeeds Act’s “supplement not supplant” provision into a cudgel to force states to equalize school spending.

It’s easy to see why folks are ticked. Not least, there is the fact that the ESSA took years to negotiate and a ton of time was spent building a bipartisan coalition to support the legislation. President Barack Obama signed it in December, and a mere three months later, the department jammed a finger in Congress’ eye with its rulemaking, which splits supporters of the ESSA.

There also is the small matter of the law: the department’s proposed new take on “supplement not supplant” goes way beyond the plain language of the law and is contrary to its legislative history and spirit:

“A State educational agency or local educational agency shall use Federal funds received under this part only to supplement the funds that would, in the absence of such Federal funds, be made available from State and local sources for the education of students participating in programs assisted under this part, and not to supplant such funds.”

Continue reading “Was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 a Civil Rights Law?”

Lyndon Baines Johnson, Special Message to the Congress: “Toward Full Educational Opportunity, January 12, 1965

LBJ Special Message to Congress 01-1965
Lyndon B. Johnson Message to Congress on Education, January 12, 1965. Source: The Association of Center for the Study of Congress

 

LBJ grew up in extreme poverty. He saw first-hand how schools could be the ticket out of a life of ignorance and hardscrabble survival. Johnson also knew that most schools got the preponderance of their funding through local property taxes. So, poor neighborhoods tended to have the schools ill-equipped to handle the “special needs” of their students. In a speech at the University of Michigan in 1964, LBJ declared,

“A third place to build the Great Society is in the classrooms of America. There your children’s lives will be shaped. Our society will not be great until every young mind is set free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination. We are still far from that goal.”

This was the context for his push for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was a key part of Johnson’s anti-poverty program.

Continue reading “Lyndon Baines Johnson, Special Message to the Congress: “Toward Full Educational Opportunity, January 12, 1965”