The National Defense Education Act was the outcome of a bill that was present before the Sputnik scare.
While the categorical aid as described in the 1958 and 1965 legislation allowed some room for negotiations on the state-church issue, it yet faced another problem due to the opposition that did not want a federal control over their states. This dragged the implementation process of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It was in the interest of the federal government to keep a check on how the funds that they allocated were being spent thus federal control was inevitable. The resistance however did not want any intervention and thus opposed any control and checks by the federal government.
There was a Public Law 94-142 passed in 1975 which was in favor for the education of handicapped children. The passing of this law experienced a slow but sure professional change in approach. These developments are incremental and as far as the history of the role played by the federal government in matters of education, such factors include the gradual acceptance of the federal control over other sectors like transportation and housing by the general public. This also increased the acceptance threshold of the public in the evolution of constitutional concepts regarding education and trends in immigration. Conditions that lead to policy excogitations depend on such developments.
In 1867 there was the Department of Education Act which gave a job description to the new Agency of Education to collect statistical data and information about the condition of education throughout the county. Further they were to distribute this information which also included observations of teaching methods and school organizations. Henry Bernard and John Eaton (Bernard's successor) who served from 1870 to 1886 conducted this assignment and gathered immense statistics and also hired professional writers to write the reports. They compiled numerous books on education, minutes of national meetings regarding education including surveys of knowledge on a wide range of education related topics. The Agency of Education was later termed as the Bureau of Education which continued to collect and compile data and statistics and distributed it. They reported to the Congress on the current condition of the schools all over the nation and wrote various reports promising developments in the education sector. During the tenure of Ronald Regan, the then Assistant Secretary of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Donald Senese stated that the majority of Republicans including President Ronald Regan recognized the importance of educational research and statistics to be the lawful role of the federal government. In the course of the tenure of President Regan, the New York Times wrote a story of getting a Grant from the Regan administration. The City of New York agreed that a project would only be possible if the federal government provided the funding. "Next a Grant writer of Grant-writing firm would be hired." The fee that was paid at that time for writing the Grant was $500,000. "I expect that bureaucrats in Washington spent an equal amount of time and money to approve the Grant. And finally, the bureaucrats in New York received a check for $2 1/2 million. I don't think that it's financially prudent to pay a 40% bureaucracy tax on any project - boondoggle or not."
The President and the members of the Congress added a range of functions to the above functions which they felt best in terms of national interest as far as education was concerned. These were approved through legislation. This was followed by the federal government giving the funds promised by them.
As previously stated, federal aid to the education sector bloomed after the Second World War due to the reason that it was during this period that the governments became active in development projects. In addition to the education sector, these development projects were being carried out in many sectors like housing, health and transportation. As improved educational facilities became part of the national interest, discretionary legislation in education at the federal level intensified. The past five decades have witnessed an increase in grants by the federal government for libraries, teaching and learning, metric education, language and science laboratories, development of content standards and assessments as well as many other functions. This has certainly improved the quality of the education sector and promises a bright future.
Regardless of the consensual nature and voluntary nature of these programs might be, the general public including politicians and educators differ in their opinion on the extent to which the federal government should be involved in the elementary and secondary education. There exists a wide spectrum of opinions. There is one end, being the ones who want minimal to no intervention, and the other, who wish for federal aid programs and do not mind the intervention. Still there are those people who are in the middle of the two extremes which include many interest groups who want the federal government to increase funding for their projects and those who want the federal government to take over a more authoritative role in accountability systems.
The future administration will face hardships in recreating the federal role in education. The states have been the ones in charge and it would be rather difficult to overtake their control. However it should also be brought up that state-based standards reforms do not remove the federal government from the picture as far as their involvement is concerned. The Congress and the administration develop and bring into effect the policies by legislation. The federal officials discuss these with the concerned group and issues guidelines. Funds are then distributed and their usage is monitored by the federal government. The state agencies of education have been shaped by the federal funding and the personnel granted federal funds. Moreover the politics of education has been a part of national politics and is more salient with the electorate as compared to the past.
In the year 2000 during the tenure of President Bill Clinton, the Department of Education was allocated a budget of $38.5 billion. It is known that Republicans have been contemplating the idea of completely eradicating the Department of Education. However with the change of the administration with the take over by President Bush, this idea and its execution was brought to an end. This was due to the reason that the Bush administration has moved up education in its list of priorities. It was then that they realized that talking about better education had a worth of millions of votes. A direct impact of this was seen by the year 2002 when the federal spending on education was increased a 23% thus amounting to $53.5 billion.
President Bush signed a new Act called the "Leave No Child Behind" Act. It is devised specifically to assist the disadvantaged, mainly the minority, schoolchildren to catch up with others. The Act to Leave No Child Behind has a vision to improve the lives of children and benefit every child in America. What had been previously suggested by the Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been picked up by the "Leave No Child Behind" Act. The Chairman of the United States House Education and the Workforce Committee had the following to say:
The federal government is now spending far more money than at any other time in history for elementary and secondary education - which means it's more important than ever that states and federally-funded schools use these funds to get results for our children. A lot is being spent - and a lot is being expected."
The involvement and intervention of the federal government has always been on the rise from 1958 to 1978 but it has been a bumpy ride. Since the late 1970s to date with every administration there was a need to recreate and redefine the role of the federal government in the education sector. However with increasing time the budget allocated to education has been increasing especially during the two tenures of President Bush.
Though throughout history the education sector has been worried mostly about the extent to which the federal government would be involved with an increased financial fund, attention needs to be brought also to the fact that money is not the only answer to improve the education system and standards and more needs to be done to accomplish the role of a better system and better standards. Hopefully the present and future government would realize this and try to genuinely improve the education standards rather than to just talk about it to gain votes.
The U.S. department of Education. "The Federal Role in Education" [online website] Available at http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/role.html?src=ln[Accessed on 01/09/2005]
Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law (Minneola, NY: The Foundation Press, second edition, 1988)
W. Brooke Graves, American Intergovernmental Relations: Their Origins, Historical Development and Current Status (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964)
Keith W. Olson. The GI Bill, the Veterans, and the Colleges (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky,…