The United States Department of Education
In providing funds to education in the U.S., the federal government plays a vital role in the education system. Overall, the federal government provides nine percent of education expenditures in this country. More specifically, the Department of Education (ED) contributes about six percent of the total amount spent on education per year. This figure comes out to about $42 billion a year, which is just a small piece (1.9%) of the Federal Government's budget of $1.9 trillion per year. Education in this country is primarily a state and local responsibility, but when it is necessary to "fill in the gaps" in the state and local support, ED steps in, making it a crucial department in this country.
The Department of Education was created in 1867. The primary emphasis in the beginning was on getting information on what works in education. Over the times, ED has been affected and changed by many laws and bills, but this original concept has remained intact.
One of the laws was the Second Morrill Act, passed in 1890. This act gave the responsibility of administering support for land-grant colleges to the Office of Education, as it was known at that time. During the 1940's, around the time of World War II, federal support for education increased greatly. For example, the GI Bill passed in 1944. This bill provided postsecondary education assistance for WWII veterans to go to college. The late 1950's also had an impact on education. This was the time when the Russians were beating the Americans in the space race, and it was believed that if
American were more highly trained in mathematics and science, that they would be able to compete with Russia. Therefore, federal funds were used to improve instruction in these fields in schools.