Control and support of U.S. education


The Constitution of the United States makes no mention of education. However, the 10th Amendment gives the states any powers the Constitution does not prohibit or specifically grant to the federal government. Because the Constitution docs not give the federal government control over education, the states automatically have this power. But the Constitution gives Congress the power to provide for the "general welfare of the United States." Congress has made use of this power to deal with educational matters that affect large numbers of Americans.

Control.Every state has passed laws governing education and has set up a system of public schools. A state school system provides facilities for every level of education, from early childhood education through higher education. Parents may send their children to public schools, or they may enroll them in private schools that are independent of state control. Private schools controlled by churches are generally called parochial schools. The Roman Catholic Church controls most of the parochial schools in the United States. About 15 per cent of all U.S. elementary- and secondary-school children attend private schools.

Various court decisions have held that parents may even educate their children at home. But the children must receive an education equal to that of public school pupils. A state may test children educated outside the public school system to see that they meet standards set for students who attend public schools.

Every state except Hawaii has transferred some of its control over public education to local school districts. Under rules set by the state, a school district is responsible for running the local public schools, from hiring teachers and constructing buildings to planning courses of study. Each state government determines the number and composition of school districts in the state. Some large districts include all or part of a city or county. Other districts are much smaller and may include only a rural township or community. The number of school districts in the United States decreased rapidly between 1940 and the mid-1970s. Most states combined small districts into larger ones to cut operating costs and make administration more efficient

Almost every state has an elected or appointed board of education and an elected or appointed superintendent or commissioner of education. Most states also have a department of education, which is composed of the state educational agencies. The board of education sets state educational policies. The state superintendent, who heads the department of education, sees that the beard's policies are carried out. Many states have a board for elementary and secondary education and a separate board for higher education. Hawaii is the only state in which the state superintendent and department of education directly control the local public schools. In all the other states, each local school district has its own board of education and superintendent of schools. The board members are either elected by the local community or appointed by local authorities.

Certain private groups have some indirect control over education. For example, the National Education Association of the United States (NEA), an organization of about 2 million teachers and school administrators, uses its influence to improve the quality of schools and teaching and to increase educational opportunities. It also works to increase teachers' salaries and benefits. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is a national teachers' union that has many of the same objectives as the NEA. Various accreditation agencies evaluate secondary schools, colleges, and universities to see that they meet certain standards. Similar agencies evaluate professional schools. Many private foundations, such as the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, also influence education. They grant money for such purposes as student scholarships and research programs. School textbook publishers influence what and how children are taught


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Higher education | Financial support

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