Education Policy: Research: Historical Overview: Preface:

Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009

Preface: How States Influence Federal Policy

When reviewing this essay, readers may want to keep in mind the principal mechanisms by which states influence federal education policy:

  • States as models. The U.S. government models federal policy on the states' successes. During the 1960s, for example, federal policymakers sought to increase equity in education by extending New York and Massachusetts policies to the rest of the nation.
  • States as failures. Perceived failures of the states to create and implement adequate education policy have propelled a great deal of federal action-for example, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.
  • States as advocates. State governments, usually education departments, actively lobby the federal government on policy issues.
  • Congressional initiatives. Legislators band together (independent of state education officials) to promote policy or obtain federal education money. These initiatives may represent a response to political opportunities or components of unrelated deals.
  • State responses to federal policy. Sometimes this response takes the form of resistance, as with desegregation and other civil rights issues. State responses to particular first-generation policies may yield modifications in the second generation.
  • State-federal negotiation. New education policy often results from state-federal negotiation surrounding the perceived successes or failures of existing federal policy.  Reauthorizations of ESEA are a case in point.
  • Personnel shifts. When leaders and mid-level managers move from state to national positions, they often use their experience from their states to influence federal policy.

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