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United States

Administration & Finance


Department of Education: Twenty years before the Hatch Act of 1887, the United States established an agency for keeping track of statistics, administration, and educational concerns to the nation at large. Originally known as the Department of Education, it was abolished in 1868, and its successor became part of the Department of the Interior under the name of the Office of Education, from 1868 to 1869. In 1869, its name changed to the Bureau of Education, remaining under the Department of the Interior. After restructuring again in 1939, education fell under the Federal Security Agency, moving again in 1953 following the establishment of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). HEW was reorganized in 1972 under the Education Division. In 1980 a new Department of Education was created.

One of the characteristics of American education is that all levels of government actively participate in decision making, budgetary concerns, and research funding. Education is thus highly accountable to taxpayers, but the many layers of federal Department of Education bureaucracy make reform slow and costly to implement. Essentially, the mandate of the Department of Education is to supplement the educational functions headed by the individual states. The department tracks educational statistics and trends, plus takes responsibility for overseeing research and the delivery of some non-state educational services, such as school lunch programs.

Primary responsibility for education is that of states and some localities. Exceptions include the District of Columbia, Pacific islands, and Indian reservations in the United States, where the U.S. Department of the Interior or Department of Education oversees operations. For example, in Guam the Department of Education oversees K-12, vocational, and community college schooling for civilian and military dependents. In 2001, an estimated 32,000 students were enrolled in Guam's K-12 single school district system.


Funding & Expenditures: Early funding of public education was uneven from state to state and even from school district to school district, particularly during the late nineteenth century. Perhaps the most important test case benefiting school funding was the 1874 Michigan Supreme Court decision on behalf of a Kalamazoo high school board, affirming its right to assess taxes as a basis of support. Subsequently, other schools in many states that had been operating under precarious circumstances seized the opportunity to gain financial backing.

While federal contributions are considerable, the primary responsibility for funding public schools rests with states, districts, and public and private organizations. According to federal figures in 2001, only about 9 percent of the $600 billion spent annually for education is supplied by the U.S. government. About three percent of all federal money goes to various school and Head Start lunch programs.

Moneys have been earmarked since 1981 to aid financially disadvantaged elementary and secondary school youth through Chapter I of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act. Title I, as it most commonly is called, has since appropriated billions of dollars to thousands of school districts whose populations contained a significant number of persons falling below the poverty line. Figures from the most recent census are used to apportion future federal aid to states and school districts to provide additional learning resources for poverty-level students. Essentially, the higher a district's number of persons living in poverty, the higher that district's federal aid.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceUnited States - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education