Federalism in Education

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Education has always been highly valued by Americans; for it is believed to be a primary means for creating a healthier society, a tool to end poverty and disease, or a battleground in a culture war. Historically, the educational system has been a decentralized one, with influence and financing focused in the local school district. The system of governance, however, is a federal one, with the involvement of all three levels of government in education. Queries about the connections among the levels of government have become progressively significant as both the State and Federal roles in education have increased and the ascendancy of education has become more and more centralized. The degree to which control has transferred from the local level is evident in numerous courts cases such as the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education and 1962 Engel v. Vitale. During the same time some activists were demanding decentralization of large-city school districts in hopes of dominance; other observers were beginning to question the vitality and significance of local school boards. William Bennett and Rod Paige recommended a national school test to respond to fears of the country's weak education system. The belief is that national standards, testing, and increased school accountability will address these concerns. Under The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, states create their own statewide tests and methods of accountability. No Child Left Behind allows states to set their own standards for measuring student achievement. With a national test, there would be more consistent standards throughout the country and states will have to improve evaluations and teaching to meet the national standard.

The American education system remains in a state of crisis. Each year, the United States spends more than $550 billion on K-12 public schools. A student attending public school in 2008 can expect taxpayers to spend an average of $9,266 on his or her behalf. Millions of American...
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