When Americans think of federal overreach in education, they might think of programs like Race to the Top, Common Core, or No Child Left Behind, but federal education interventions began long before the Age of Standardized Testing.
Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted a series of welfare programs called the War on Poverty. One of these programs was Head Start, a program aimed at preparing low-income children for kindergarten.
Also under the umbrella of the War on Poverty, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted in 1965. The purpose of ESEA was to start funding schools with federal money, but it forbade a national curriculum.
Under President Jimmy Carter’s administration, the Department of Education was founded in 1979. Just a few years later, in 1983, the American public was shocked by the findings of A Nation at Risk, a report issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education during President Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton left their mark on standards-based education in the 1990s with America 2000 (Bush) and Goals 2000 (Clinton).
In 2001, President George W. Bush reauthorized the ESEA under a new name, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and in 2011, the U.S. Department of Education began awarding states with flexibility waivers from NCLB if they did things like adopt Common Core or evaluate teachers based on student achievement.
In just 50 years, federal oversight in education has grown and evolved. On the anniversary of one of LBJ’s key initiatives, some are calling for even more government intervention to fix the inequalities that still plague the United States today.
But federal intervention will not solve Missouri’s education problems—just look at the results. Few would argue the education system in America is in good shape, or that every child is receiving a quality education. So why institute more government intervention?
If the past 50 years has taught us anything, it’s that Missouri needs to enter a new era of education reform, one in which choice and competition are embraced.