The Growth of Federal Involvement in Education

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from NCPA,

Federal intervention in elementary and secondary education has exploded over the last 50 years, according to a new report for the Mercatus Center by Courtney Collins, assistant professor of economics at Rhodes College.

The federal government had little involvement in elementary and secondary education in the United States until 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Originally intended to provide federal funding to schools with high populations of students from low-income families, the ESEA has ballooned into a law more than 20 times its original size, writes Collins. Federal education funding for elementary and secondary education was $6.7 billion in 1964 (in 2013 dollars). By 1966, it was more than $14 billion. In 2010, it was $80 billion.

As new federal programs have been created over the last half-century, new federal requirements have been imposed on schools.

The Department of Education also grew during this time, issuing new regulations from year to year. The total number of regulatory constraints (regulations issued by the Department of Education including the words “may not,” “shall,” or “required,” and the like) in 1980 was 2,000. By 2010, it had reached 10,800. All of these requirements, writes Collins, represent the replacement of state and local control with federal educational mandates.

Significantly, American students’ scores in math and reading from 1971 to 2012 have hardly changed. While 9- and 13-year-old students have performed slightly better during that time, 17-year-olds have performed worse in math and shown no change in reading.

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