The Federal Government's Role in Public Education

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  • 0:01 Public Education
  • 0:56 Levels of Government
  • 2:33 No Child Left Behind
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

There are many different levels of government involved in public education in the United States. But what are the different responsibilities of each? Watch this lesson to explore how the federal government affects education in America.

Public Education

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if everyone had to pay to go to school. Maybe you want to go to kindergarten, but your parents can't afford it, so you never learn to read and write. Only the people whose parents can afford school can go, and so only a few people become literate.

In America in the 17th century, public education, or schooling that is free and open to the public, became a priority. Many of the founders of the country recognized that an educated populous is good for democracy. That is, the more educated everyone is, the better they can make decisions about how to vote.

As a result, a central tenet of the American belief system became the idea that all children deserve a good education, regardless of whether they can pay for it or not. But how, exactly, does the government provide education to everyone?

Let's look closer at the levels of government involved in the public education system in America, including the federal government's role in education.

Levels of Government

There are three levels of government that are involved in public education. If that sounds complicated, well, that's because it can be at times. But for the most part, each level of government has its own specific duties, which helps keep things a little more straightforward. To help remember the duties of the different levels of government, think of it as an inverted triangle.

At the top, the largest government level involved in education is the federal government, which has little involvement in the specific decisions of education. The federal government provides money to schools and districts, and they can attach strings to those funds (as we'll see in a minute), but for the most part, the federal government doesn't take an active role in public education.

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