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United States Department of Education

Coordinates: 38°53′11.5″N 77°1′7.9″W / 38.886528°N 77.018861°W / 38.886528; -77.018861
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United States
Department of Education
Seal of the United States Department of Education
Flag of the United States Department of Education

Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building, Department Headquarters
Department overview
FormedOctober 17, 1979; 44 years ago (1979-10-17)
Preceding agencies
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
HeadquartersLyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building, 400 Maryland Avenue, Southwest, Washington, D.C., U.S. 20202
38°53′11.5″N 77°1′7.9″W / 38.886528°N 77.018861°W / 38.886528; -77.018861
Employees3,912 (2018)[1]
Annual budget$68 billion (2016)[2]
Department executives
Key document

The United States Department of Education is a cabinet-level department of the United States government. It began operating on May 4, 1980, having been created after the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was split into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services by the Department of Education Organization Act, which President Jimmy Carter signed into law on October 17, 1979.[3][4]

The Department of Education is administered by the United States secretary of education. It has 4,400 employees – the smallest staff of the Cabinet agencies[5] – and an annual budget of $68 billion.[6] The President's 2023 Budget request is for $88.3 billion, which includes funding for children with disabilities (IDEA), pandemic recovery, early childhood education, Pell Grants, Title I, work assistance, among other programs.[7] Its official abbreviation is ED ("DOE" refers to the United States Department of Energy) but is also abbreviated informally as "DoEd".

Purpose and functions[edit]

Unlike the systems of many other countries, education in the United States is decentralized. Due to the courts and lawmakers' interpretation of the 10th Amendment, this means the federal government and Department of Education are not involved in determining curricula or educational standards or establishing schools or colleges.[8] The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) oversees schools located on American military bases[9] and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Education supports tribally-controlled schools.[10] The quality of higher education institutions and their degrees are maintained through an informal private process known as accreditation, over which the Department of Education has no direct public jurisdictional control.

The department identifies four key functions:[6]

  • Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds.
  • Collecting data on America's schools and disseminating research.
  • Focusing national attention on key educational issues.
  • Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.

The Department of Education is a member of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness,[11] and works with federal partners to ensure proper education for homeless and runaway youth in the United States.


Pell GrantFederal Direct Student Loan ProgramElementary and Secondary Education Act#Title ISpecial education in the United StatesOther: $7.92B (9.1%)
Budget of the Department of Education for FY 2015, showing its largest components[12]

For 2006, the ED discretionary budget was $56 billion and the mandatory budget contained $23 billion.[13] In 2009 it received additional ARRA funding of $102 billion.[14] As of 2011, the discretionary budget is $70 billion.[13]



The department's origin goes back to 1867, when President Andrew Johnson signed legislation for a Department of Education. It was seen as a way to collect information and statistics about the nation's schools and provide advice to schools in the same way the Department of Agriculture helped farmers.[15] The department was originally proposed by Henry Barnard and leaders of the National Teachers Association (renamed the National Education Association). Barnard served as the first commissioner of education but resigned when the office was reconfigured as a bureau in the Department of Interior known as the United States Office of Education due to concerns it would have too much control over local schools.[16][17][18]

Over the years, the office remained relatively small, operating under different titles and housed in various agencies, including the United States Department of the Interior and the former United States Department of Health Education and Welfare (DHEW) (now the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)).[18] An unsuccessful attempt at creating a Department of Education, headed by a Secretary of Education, came with the Smith–Towner Bill in 1920.[19]

In 1939, the organization (then a bureau) was transferred to the Federal Security Agency, where it was renamed as the Office of Education. After World War II, President Dwight D. Eisenhower promulgated "Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953." The Federal Security Agency was abolished and most of its functions were transferred to the newly formed DHEW.[20]

In 1979, President Carter advocated for creating a cabinet-level Department of Education.[21] Carter's plan was to transfer most of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's education-related functions to the Department of Education.[21] Carter also planned to transfer the education-related functions of the departments of Defense, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture, as well as a few other federal entities.[21] Among the federal education-related programs that were not proposed to be transferred were Headstart, the Department of Agriculture's school lunch and nutrition programs, the Department of the Interior's Native Americans' education programs, and the Department of Labor's education and training programs.[21]

Upgrading Education to cabinet-level status in 1979 was opposed by many in the Republican Party, who saw the department as unconstitutional, arguing that the Constitution does not mention education, and deemed it an unnecessary and illegal federal bureaucratic intrusion into local affairs. However, many see the department as constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that the funding role of the department is constitutional under the Taxing and Spending Clause. The National Education Association supported the bill, while the American Federation of Teachers opposed it.[22]

As of 1979, the Office of Education had 3,000 employees and an annual budget of $12 billion.[23] Congress appropriated to the Department of Education an annual budget of $14 billion and 17,000 employees when establishing the Department of Education.[24] During the 1980 presidential campaign, Gov. Reagan called for the total elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, severe curtailment of bilingual education, and massive cutbacks in the federal role in education. Once in office, President Reagan significantly reduced its budget.[25]

Early history[edit]

The Republican Party platform of 1980 called for the elimination of the Department of Education created under Carter, and President Ronald Reagan promised during the 1980 presidential election to eliminate it as a cabinet post,[26] but he was not able to do so with a Democratic House of Representatives.[27] In the 1982 State of the Union Address, he pledged: "The budget plan I submit to you on Feb. 8 will realize major savings by dismantling the Department of Education."[27]

By 1984 the GOP had dropped the call for elimination from its platform, and with the election of President George H. W. Bush in 1988, the Republican position evolved in almost lockstep with that of the Democrats, with Goals 2000 a virtual joint effort.[citation needed]

After the Newt Gingrich-led "revolution" in 1994 had taken control of both Houses of Congress, federal control of and spending on education soared. That trend continued unabated despite the fact that the Republican Party made abolition of the department a cornerstone of 1996 platform and campaign promises, calling it an inappropriate federal intrusion into local, state, and family affairs.[27] The GOP platform read: "The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning."[27]

In 2000, the Republican Liberty Caucus passed a resolution to abolish the Department of Education.[28] Abolition of the organization was not pursued under the George W. Bush administration, which made reform of federal education a key priority of the president's first term. In 2008 and 2012, presidential candidate Ron Paul campaigned in part on an opposition to the department.[29]

Later history[edit]

A construction project to repair and update the building façade at the Department of Education headquarters in 2002 resulted in the installation of structures at all of the entrances to protect employees and visitors from falling debris. ED redesigned these protective structures to promote the No Child Left Behind Act. The structures were temporary and were removed in 2008. Source: U.S. Department of Education[30]

Under President George W. Bush, the department primarily focused on elementary and secondary education, expanding its reach through the No Child Left Behind Act. The department's budget increased by $14 billion between 2002 and 2004, from $46 billion to $60 billion.[27][31]

On March 23, 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law H.R. 584, which designates the ED Headquarters building as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building.[32]

In December 2015 President Barack Obama instituted the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorized the Elementary Secondary Education Act. "In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and replacing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). ESEA, the federal law that authorizes federal funding for K-12 schools, represents the nation's commitment to equal educational opportunity for all students and has influenced the education of millions of children." [citation needed]


Department of Education structure
Secretary of Education Office of Communications and Outreach
Office of the General Counsel
Office of Inspector General
Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
Office for Civil Rights
Office of Educational Technology
Institute of Education Sciences
*National Center for Education Statistics
**National Assessment of Educational Progress
**Education Resources Information Center
Office of Innovation and Improvement
Office of the Chief Financial Officer
Office of Management
Office of the Chief Information Officer
Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
*Budget Service
Risk Management Service
Deputy Secretary of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
*Education Facilities Clearinghouse
*Office of Migrant Education
*Office of Safe and Healthy Students
*Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs
*White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders
*White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
*White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education
*White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
Office of English Language Acquisition
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
*National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
*Office of Special Education Programs
*Rehabilitation Services Administration
Office of Innovation and Improvement
Under Secretary of Education Office of Postsecondary Education
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Office of Federal Student Aid
President's Advisory Board on Tribal Colleges and Universities
President's Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Associated federal organizations Advisory Councils and Committees
National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)[1]
National Advisory Council on Indian Education
Federal Interagency Committee on Education
Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities
National Board for Education Sciences
National Board of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education
Federally aided organizations Gallaudet University
Howard University
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

See also[edit]

Related legislation[edit]


  1. ^ Stratford, Michael (22 January 2018). "Education Department goes into shutdown mode". Politico. Archived from the original on 25 January 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Overview and Mission Statement - U.S. Department of Education". www2.ed.gov. Archived from the original on 31 August 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  3. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 96–88, S. 210, 93 Stat. 668, enacted October 17, 1979
  4. ^ Kosar, Kevin R. (15 April 2011). "Department of Education Organization Act, 1979". Federal Education Policy History. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  5. ^ "Federal Role in Education". www2.ed.gov. 15 June 2021. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Overview and Mission Statement | U.S. Department of Education". www2.ed.gov. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  7. ^ "President's FY 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education". www2.ed.gov. 28 March 2022. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  8. ^ "The Roles of Federal and State Governments in Education". Findlaw. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  9. ^ Communications, DoDEA. "About DoDEA". www.dodea.edu. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  10. ^ "Tribally-Controlled Schools | Bureau of Indian Education". www.bie.edu. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  11. ^ "Department of Education | Member Agency | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)". Usich.gov. Archived from the original on 26 August 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  12. ^ "ED History" (PDF). U.S. Department of Education. 25 September 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 February 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Overview". U.S. Department of Education Budget Office. 12 February 2011. Archived from the original on 4 September 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  14. ^ "Budget of the US Government, Fiscal Year 2011" (PDF). Office of Management and Budget. 13 January 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 February 2017 – via National Archives.
  15. ^ Altenbaugh, Richard J. (1999). Historical dictionary of American education. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-585-39202-8. OCLC 49569806.
  16. ^ Kosar, Kevin R. (19 February 2011). "Act to Establish a Federal Department of Education, 1867". Federal Education Policy History. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  17. ^ Chap. CLVIII. 14 Stat. 434 Archived 21 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine from "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U. S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875" Archived 6 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Library of Congress, Law Library of Congress. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
  18. ^ a b "The Department's History". An Overview of the U.S. Department of Education. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Education. September 2010. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 March 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  19. ^ "The Smith-Towner Bill". Elementary School Journal. 20 (8): 575–583. April 1920. doi:10.1086/454812. JSTOR 994235.
  20. ^ "Oral History Interview with Oscar R. Ewing." Archived 21 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine Oral History Interviews. Truman Presidential Library. May 1, 1969; Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953. Title 5: Appendix: Reorganization Plans. Archived 12 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine Transmitted to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, March 12, 1953.
  21. ^ a b c d "Department of Education Outlined". Associated Press. 9 February 1979. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  22. ^ Written at Washington. "House Narrowly Passes Department of Education Bill". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. The New York Times. 12 July 1979. Archived from the original on 13 May 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  23. ^ Hechinger, Fred M (3 September 1979). "Federal Education Branch Is Foundering, Leaderless". Lexington, North Carolina. New York Times News Service. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  24. ^ "Education Department Created". United Press International. 18 October 1979.
  25. ^ Clabaugh, Gary K. (Summer 2004). "The educational legacy of Ronald Reagan" (PDF). The Cutting Edge. Educational Horizons. 82 (4). Pi Lambda Theta: 256–259. ISSN 0013-175X. JSTOR 42926508. ERIC EJ684842. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  26. ^ "Online Backgrounders: The Department of Education". PBS. Fall 1996. Archived from the original on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2005.
  27. ^ a b c d e de Rugy, Veronique; Gryphon, Marie (11 February 2004), Elimination Lost: What happened to abolishing the Department of Education?, Cato Institute, archived from the original on 7 December 2013, retrieved 15 February 2017, This article originally appeared in National Review Online on February 11, 2004.
  28. ^ "Education". 2007. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2007.
  29. ^ Stossel, John (10 December 2007). "Ron Paul Unplugged". ABC News. Archived from the original on 9 December 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  30. ^ "Paige Fields Team to Leave No Child Behind". United States Department of Education. 11 April 2002. Archived from the original on 24 September 2003.
  31. ^ Young, Michelle D.; Winn, Kathleen M.; Reedy, Marcy A. (13 October 2017). "The Every Student Succeeds Act: Strengthening the Focus on Educational Leadership". Educational Administration Quarterly. 53 (5): 705–726. doi:10.1177/0013161x17735871. ISSN 0013-161X. S2CID 149148569.
  32. ^ "President Bush Signs H.R. 584, Designates U.S. Department of Education as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Federal Building". whitehouse.gov. 23 March 2007. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2012 – via National Archives.

Further reading[edit]

  • Radin, Beryl A., and Willis D. Hawley (1988). Politics of Federal Reorganization: Creating the U.S. Department of Education, ISBN 978-0080339771
  • Heffernan, Robert V. (2001). Cabinetmakers: Story of the Three-Year Battle to Establish the U.S. Department of Education, ISBN 978-0595158706

Primary sources[edit]

External links[edit]