Timeline of the Federal Government’s Role in Public Education

Included below is a brief historical overview of federal involvement in public education.

Event Date


Land Ordinance & Northwest Ordinance


Requirement of a system of public education to be established in each township formed under a specified formula. Regulated monies raised via taxes and selling or renting land.
Land Grants 1841/1848 Congress granted 77+ million acres of land in the public domain as endowments for support of schools. Federal government also granted surplus money to states for public education.
Early philosophy – first six presidents   Discussion of a national university and urging of federal involvement in public education. Seen as critical to preparation for citizenship in a republican form of government.
First Morrill Act otherwise known as the Land Grant Act


Donated public lands to states to be used for the endowment to support and maintain at least one college with specific purpose of teaching branches of agriculture, mechanic arts and industrial education.
The original Department  (Office) of Education established


Began to collect data – information on schools and teaching that would help states establish effective school systems.
Second Morrill Act


Gave the Office of Education responsibility for administering support for the original system of land-grant colleges.
Smith-Hughes Act


Promoted  vocational schools
Lanham ActImpact Aid laws



Eased the burden on communities affected by presence of military and federal installations: payments to school districts.
GI Bill


Provided post secondary education assistance to GIs returning from World War II
George-Barden Act


Provided funding for agricultural, industrial and home economics training for high school students
National Defense Education Act


In response to Soviet Sputnik. NDEA included support for loans to college students in science, mathematics and foreign languages.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act


Established comprehensive set of programs including Title I of federal aid to disadvantaged.
Title IX


Prohibited discrimination in education based on gender.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act


Prohibited discrimination based on disability.
Department of Education cabinet level agency


Recognized the important role of public education in our country.
Educational Testing Service (ETS) and NAEP


Federal government transferred responsibility for administering the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to ETS: the nation’s report card.
Nation at Risk


Report indicating that the USA was falling behind in education achievement.
President G.H. Bush


“Indian Education Bill of Rights”K-12 Drug awareness model

Advisory committee on Hispanic education

America 2000 education reform program

Work began on national standards

President W. Clinton


Academics 2000 offered grant to states / local school districts for innovation. Teach for America.
President G.W. Bush


Reauthorization of ESEA –No Child Left Behind.
President Barack Obama

2009 –

President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform – Reauthorization of ESEA.Race to the Top: Grants awarded to states with innovative ideas that accepted the Common Core Standards.

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