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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