The Center on Education Policy is a national, independent advocate for public education and for more effective public schools. The Center helps Americans better understand the role of public education in a democracy and the need to improve the academic quality of public schools. We do not represent any special interests. Instead, we try to help citizens make sense of the conflicting opinions and perceptions about public education and create the conditions that will lead to better public schools.
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In this paper, CEP president and CEO Jack Jennings tracks the federal government’s involvement in education through the course of American history, and argues that this involvement must continue. Jennings provides evidence that the government has played an essential role in the development of public schools – consistent with the founding fathers’ vision – and that this role is vital to the continued success of the country. Supplemental papers by Wayne Riddle and Alexandra Usher discuss in more detail two aspects of federal involvement: special provisions written into the U.S. tax code that provide substantial indirect financial support for public education, and the federal land grants given to states for the support of public schools. PDFs of states’ original Enabling Acts establishing their land grants are also available below.