The Federal Role in Education Today: How We Got Here and Where We Need to Go
March 27, 2013
The process began in the Clinton Administration, had an assist from the George H. W. Bush Administration, was given a powerful push forward by the George W. Bush Administration and then was given a big push over the fence by the Obama Administration.
The result was a transformation in the federal role in education. Prior to the Clinton administration, the federal government's role had been to aid, assist, prod and push the schools, districts and states. But the key word was always "aid." There was no question about who was in charge and it was never, in that whole period, the federal government. By which I mean that it was up to the government to offer financial aid to assist disadvantaged students, to help others develop curriculum that schools were genuinely free to use or not as they chose, to aid in the development of stronger vocational programs, but always of the schools' design, and so on. In that entire period, from the 1950s to the 1990s, the federal government did not interfere in any important way with the design of the larger system and the way it worked, except with respect to school desegregation, which was the result of decisions made by the courts and not primarily the result of executive or legislative branch decisions.