Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009
Introduction: Education - Growing Federal Role
Virtually every study of the federal role in American education begins with the qualifying statement: education in the United States is chiefly a matter of state and local responsibility. This statement is certainly true . . . as far as it goes. Education is a state and local responsibility, both legally (every state constitution guarantees its citizens' right to education, while the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly mention education at all) and financially (state and local expenditures cover approximately 92 percent of school costs on average, while the federal budget covers only 8 percent-though, in some large urban districts, federal aid covers as much as 30 or 40 percent of local school costs). Yet, even if public education is chiefly a matter of state and local responsibility, the federal role in American schools has grown exponentially in the period since the mid-twentieth century, and state-federal interactions in the realm of education policy have become increasingly complex as a result.
Footnotes: The PDF version of this essay contains extensive footnotes that include numerous citations and supplementary text. For ease of reading, the footnotes are omitted from this version.