The Evolution of Education Laws and Policies

The right to education is enjoyed by all American children. The K-12 education systems along with other educational laws enable all children including those with disabilities to receive quality education regardless of the state they live in. Education laws and policies are enacted with the view of improving the education system and no children will be left with no education. But how do these educational laws and policies came about?

Education laws and policies refer to those laws affecting schools including school systems and school boards responsible for the education of children, adults and those with disabilities. Each state enjoys the freedom to develop, maintain and operate its own school system in accordance with the K-12 education system. Education laws and policies like the right to a free public education are found in many state constitutions but not in the federal constitution. All states have a provision in their constitution guaranteeing free public education but no such provision can be found in the federal constitution. In a case decided by the Supreme Court, it ruled that education is not a fundamental right and as such, the decision as to whether to provide education or not including its level and quality is left among the various states.

The United States Congress is not empowered to enact education laws and most federal education law is passed under the spending clause of the constitution. This clause gives congress the authority to tax and spend for the general welfare. But this does not mean that the federal government does not take an active interest in the education of Americans. However, if a state decides to pass a law providing education to children, the provision of such education law must be consistent with other federally guaranteed constitutional right such as the due process clause, equal protection and the free exercise and non establishment of religion. As such, even though the constitution does not explicitly require an education, it still has an effect on the enactment of education laws and policies. Therefore, each state may pass their own education laws and policies provided it is in accordance with other established rights found in the federal constitution.

States are accorded leeway in the passing of education laws and policies to improve their education system provided it does not contradict well established principles enacted by the federal constitution. Although states enjoy the primary responsibility for the maintenance of schools, the federal government through the Department of Education oversees the public education system. It sees to it that the laws enacted relative to education are carried out and observed by states in enacting education laws in their respective jurisdiction. If the federal government through the United States Congress enacts a law like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all states are mandated to observe such law and any law to be passed by a state related to the education of children with disabilities must coincide with IDEA. Education laws and policies enacted by the federal government are strictly implemented across all states while those education laws passed by a state are enforced within the said state.

The United States educational laws and policies have undergone changes and development. What began as limited to those who can afford education and white people, education laws and policies now extends to everyone of appropriate age regardless of economic status and color of the skin. The passing of various education laws and policies whether federal or state enacted is a testament of the importance a nation gives to educating its youth. The K-12 education system is a perfect example of the evolution of education laws and policies.

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