NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Washington's Role in Education

April 14, 2011

Washington's role in education has grown to the point where it is difficult to track all the federal interventions.  Using a narrow definition, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined in 2010 that there were 151 K-12 and early childhood education programs housed in 20 federal agencies, averaging $55.6 billion annually, says Jennifer A. Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation

The Constitution does not provide for a federal role in education, and public schools have traditionally been under the jurisdiction of local authorities.  Congress should set a course to get Washington out of the way of local schools and restore constitutional governance in education, beginning with the following near-term steps:

  • Allow states to opt out of federal K-12 programs and direct funding to state education priorities.
  • Make way for state systemic reform; the most promising education reforms have proliferated through local and state leadership paving the way.
  • Simplify Title I and make it student-centered; to make sure maximum funding reaches low-income students, Congress should fund states based on the number of low-income students using a set per-pupil allocation.
  • Advance parental choice in education where appropriate: To achieve true accountability and improved outcomes, parents should have the power to choose such a school, with money following the child.

Source: Jennifer Marshall, "Freeing Schools from Washington's Education Overreach," Heritage Foundation, April 6, 2011.

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