In The United States today, a high-quality education is no longer just a stepping-stone to unlimited opportunity in the world, it is a requirement for any future success. Educating every American citizen and equipping all students to graduate from high school and go on to a form of higher education is a national imperative. It is up to the federal, state, and local government to effectively provide every American student with a complete education that will enable them to progress toward opportunity and succeed in our growing and advancing world.
The issue of government involvement and policy in public education Kindergarten through twelfth grade is extremely important and affects the lives of all US citizens. The Federal government’s role in public education has changed throughout history, however, its official mission has remained the same: to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access (Federal Role in Education, 2012).
In Barack Obama’s presidency, education reforms have embodies 4 key objectives: higher standards and better assessments to prepare students, greater efforts to recruit and prepare teachers and administrators, smarter data systems to improve teaching and learning, and new attention given to lower-achieving schools (K-12 Education, 2015). Government’s role in public education K-12 looks very different on a national level from a state or local level. When our United States Constitution was written, a system of federalism was created to where some policy areas were given to state government and others were federal concerns.
Public education is mainly in the hands of the state governments (CIE – How Are The Local, State, 2015). States have control over the licensing of its teachers and the creation of standards that all students are supposed to meet at each grade level. State governments give other tasks and sectors of control to the local governments; this is where most school boards come in to play. The federal government is primarily responsible for education funding and the amount of grant money each local/state government is rewarded each year.
When Congress passes a federal budget every year, it sets aside a portion of money to fund roughly ten percent of public school operating costs (CIE – How Are The Local, State, 2015). This includes funds from the Department of Education as well as many other federal agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services Head Start Program and the Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch Program (Federal Role in Education, 2012). This funding however, comes with rules and regulations that the states must comply with.
In 2001, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act during George Bush’s presidency (LWV, 2015). This act would require government schools to test all students every year to evaluate their progress. Students must pass standardized tests in order to move on to the next grade level. If students perform below the established standards, they are offered free tutoring and after school programs, even other government school programs (CIE- How Are The Local, State, 2015). If schools continue to fall before standards, teachers may be replaced and curriculum may need to be re-evaluated for the following school year.
Constitutionally, the federal government may not require a single state to agree to the No Child Left Behind requirement, however, this will result in no funding for that particular state. During Barack Obama’s administration, many advances in public education k-12 have taken place. His High School Redesign Initiative will encourage America’s school districts to use existing resources to transform the experience for students. This will challenge educators to implement learning tactics that are relevant and interesting to students, things that will help them in the real world.
This program too, will help teachers emphasize the importance of discovering different career paths earlier on so that students are more prepared for higher education and the working world (K-12 Education, 2015). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has enabled states to keep 300,000 educators on the job in the midst of budget cuts across the country. President Obama sighed the Education Jobs Bill that provides states 10 billion in emergency funding for teachers. Lastly, ConnectED has committed private-sector companies to providing new technology and software to all public schools in every state.
As teachers learn how to better use technology in their teaching, this movement will hopefully help students grow and learn in new ways. These are just a few of the many ways the federal government has helped to aid public education K-12 over the last several years (K-12 Education, 2015). Although the federal government’s role in public education may seem small compared to the direct impact the state government may have, it mainly functions as a filler of any gaps state and local governments fail to fill.
It is almost easier to control education by giving the majority of the power to the state’s, where change can be more hands on. The federal government has the power to give the funding that state’s need but may not be able to provide on it’s own. The historical development of the federal role in education has evolved into an “emergency response system” (Federal Role in Education, 2012). The biggest way American citizens can get more involved in education advancement and reform is to join local school boards.
Another important thing that citizens can do alongside the Federal government is to bring awareness to education challenges facing the nation, and bring attention to what is positively impacting teaching and learning, and what can be changed. After all, getting involved in education will have a direct impact on the lives of many students aspiring to make a difference in the world one day. The government desperately needs the help of citizens to advance the education offered kindergarten through high school.