The Federal Role in Education
Education is primarily a State and local responsibility in the United States. It is States and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrollment and graduation. The structure of education finance in America reflects this predominant State and local role. Of an estimated $1.13 trillion being spent nationwide on education at all levels for school year 2010-2011, a substantial majority will come from State, local, and private sources. This is especially true at the elementary and secondary level, where about 89.2 percent of the funds will come from non-Federal sources.
That means the Federal contribution to elementary and secondary education is about 10.8 percent, which includes funds not only from the Department of Education (ED) but also from other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services' Head Start program and the Department of Agriculture's School Lunch program.
Although ED's share of total education funding in the U.S. is relatively small
, ED works hard to get a big bang for its taxpayer-provided bucks by targeting its funds where they can do the most good. This targeting reflects the historical development of the Federal role in education as a kind of "emergency response system," a means of filling gaps in State and local support for education when critical national needs arise. ...