The U.S. Department of Education is the government office selected for this task. This is a comparatively modern cabinet-level organisation, but its existence goes back to 1867, when the first Department of Education was set up by then-President Andrew Johnson. The primary objective of this department was to collect information and statistics about schools in the US. However, fearing that this department would exercise undue control over the functioning of the schools, it was later demoted to an Office of Education in 1868. The advancement of science and technology in the 1950s and 1960s called for expanded support for schooling, which was then applied to education for the young, blacks, women, persons with disabilities and foreign nationals. This contributed to the adoption, in 1979, of the Public Law Act creating the Department of Education Agency. The key goals of this department is to guarantee fair access to education for everyone, to strengthen the standard of education, to engage both parents and the public in education matters, to expand federal funding and assistance, to improve alignment, administration and efficacy of federal education services and to increase the transparency of such programmes to the President. Although the Department’s original goal has been retained to date, rising global competition has also intensified the need to train American students to meet this task by promoting excellent educational opportunities for all groups of citizens.
Arne Duncan is the acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. He was nominated as Secretary of Education by President-elect Barack Obama, and the U.S. Senate approved his position on the inaugural day in 2009. The key priority of the Department of Education is to ensure fair access to education for everyone and also to increase the excellence of education throughout the world. The Secretary of the Department of Education coordinates, supervises and guides all operations within the Department, in addition to serving as the Chief Adviser to the President in issues pertaining to government legislation, services and other relevant incidents in the field of education. The Secretary shall remain Chief Executive Officer of the Government and shall be preceded in sequence by the Deputy and Deputy Secretary, General Counsel and Chief Financial Officer. The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education is responsible for the formulation and execution of education policy and services for elementary and secondary education programmes including the establishment of a healthy and drug-free atmosphere in classrooms, special education for children with disabilities and recovery for those of a culturally diverse culture and background. The Under-Secretary works with post-secondary, higher and adult education initiatives and services, student grants and changes to the Presidential Pell Grant programme. The Secretary shall be assisted by representatives who shall form the immediate office of the Secretary. They are expected to provide administrative assistance and guidance to the Secretary. They comprise the Chief of Staff, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Planning and Policy and Services, the Senior Adviser and the White House Liaison. In conjunction, the immediate office of the Secretary oversees the executive management personnel delivering administrative and management resources, scheduling and advance workers charged with handling the everyday communication requirements of the Secretary’s Office and logistics, and the Executive Secretariat monitors all communications between the offices of the Secretary, Deputy and Under Secretary, Wh.
The Department of Education has about 22 offices that work under the secretary, deputy secretary and the undersecretary and while the education fact-finding was handled by only 4 employees in the 1860s, the number of staff members as on early 2009 has risen to about 5,000. With the department headquartered at Washington D.C. where about 3,600 staff members work, the other ten regional offices of the education department houses about 1,400 employees. The regional offices are at Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle (U.S. Department of Education). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which was introduced in the year 2009 allocated nearly $100 billion towards early learning programs, for implementing reforms in order to strengthen the elementary and secondary education, provision of competitive funds for innovation, and to improve affordability to colleges and higher education (U.S. Department of Education; Education). The proposed request for the Education Department Budget for the academic year 2012 is $77.4 billion as against the $69.9 and $64.1 billion granted for the years 2011 and 2010 respectively. This budget would continue the investments according to the Recovery Act of 2009 and would reward excellence in education and promote innovations. In addition, the budget also includes the reauthorization of the Elementary and secondary education act (ESEA) by which the government has proposed to provide suitable incentives and support to schools in the country in order to help them recruit and retain effective teachers and leaders. The reauthorization plan also includes a budget to support the living conditions of those children housed in communities that lack basic amenities. The government has also concluded that an effective early learning program alone would help promote cognitive, health and social-emotional outcomes and school-readiness among children and has thus allocated funds to introduce effective early learning strategies. Another important focus of the budget is the improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the country. The budget also intends to promote the education of poor and minority students to enable them to graduate for college and become career-ready. Suitable resources have been allocated to improve the services provided to the low-income and students with disabilities. The budget has also increased the provision of Pell grant towards educational benefits for needy post-secondary students. In order to protect the maximum Pell grant level, the government has also proposed the introduction of a Pell grant protection act by which extra benefits from the Pell grant would be eliminated. The budget has also separately allotted funds to aid the disadvantaged students complete post-secondary education. Technical, literacy and vocational rehabilitation programs targeting adult learners has also been included in the proposed budget. Half of the budget has already been rendered reserved allotted to research and development in the field of education and to increase the transparency of the system. The proposed budget is higher compared to the previous two years and the funds allotted to the various educational programs are concurrent with the rising standards of education and the need to provide education for all (U.S. Department of Education).
The fact that the Americans believe in providing good quality education for all its children and that this is also being supported vehemently by the President and his government stresses the significant role played by the Department of Education. In order for the goal, to provide every child with access to education, to be realized the department members will have to work hard to introduce and implement the reforms and various other policies which are directed towards better access to childhood and higher education for all American children. The President envisions that America will have the highest proportion of college graduates by the year 2020 and this will become a reality only with the combined efforts of the citizens along with the education and other related departments of the government.
- S. Department of Education. ed.gov. n.d. Web. 4 July 2011. http://www2.ed.gov/
- The White House. “Education.” gov. n.d. Web. 4 July 2011. http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education