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United States
Department of Education
Seal of the US Department of Education
Department overview
Formed October 17, 1979
Preceding agencies United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
United States Office of Education
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Employees 5,000 (2007)
Annual budget Discretionary: $62.6 billion (2009)
ARRA Funding: $96.8 billion
Agency executives Arne Duncan, Secretary
Anthony W. Miller, Deputy Secretary
Child agency Click here
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education building, ED headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The United States Department of Education, also referred to as ED or the ED for (the) Education Department, is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government. Created by the Department of Education Organization Act (Public Law 96-88), it was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 17, 1979 and began operating on May 16, 1980.

The Department of Education Organization Act divided the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Education is administered by the United States Secretary of Education.

It is by far the smallest Cabinet-level department, with about 5,000 employees. The agency's official acronym is ED (and not DOE, which refers to the United States Department of Energy). It is also often abbreviated informally as DoED.



A previous Department of Education was created in 1867 but soon was demoted to an Office in 1868. Its creation a century later in 1979 was controversial and opposed by many in the Republican Party, who saw the department as an unconstitutional, unnecessary federal bureaucratic intrusion into local affairs.

Unlike the systems of most other countries, education in the United States is highly decentralized, and the federal government and Department of Education are not heavily involved in determining curricula or educational standards (with the recent exception of the No Child Left Behind Act). This has been left to state and local school districts. The quality of educational institutions and their degrees is maintained through an informal private process known as accreditation, over which the Department of Education has no direct public jurisdictional control.

Rather, the primary function of the Department of Education is to formulate federal funding programs involving education and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.

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.[2]


2007 Department of Education Structure
Office of the Secretary (OS)
Chief Operating Officer
Office of the Under Secretary (OUS)
Office of the Deputy Secretary (ODS)
Associated federal organizations
Federally aided organizations


President Ronald Reagan promised during the 1980 presidential election to eliminate the Department of Education as a cabinet post,[1] but he was not able to do so with a Democratic House of Representatives. 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.[2]

Throughout the 1980s, the abolition of the Department of Education was a part of the Republican Party platform, but the administration of President George H. W. Bush declined to implement this idea.

In 1996, the Republican Party made abolition of the Department a cornerstone of their campaign promises, calling it an inappropriate federal intrusion into local, state, and family affairs.[2] 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.[2][3]

During his 1996 presidential run, Senator Bob Dole promised, "We're going to cut out the Department of Education."[3]

In 2000, the Republican Liberty Caucus passed a resolution to abolish the Department of Education.[4]

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, presidential candidate Ron Paul campaigned in part on an opposition to the Department.[5]

No Child Left Behind

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 are temporary and were removed in 2008. Source: U.S. Department of Education, [1]

Under President George W. Bush, the Department primarily focused on elementary and secondary education, expanding its reach through the "No Child Left Behind" law. The Department's budget increased 69.6% between 2002 and 2004.[2]


As with other federal agencies, the ED operates with the assistance of several advisory committees. The Federal Interagency Committee on Education (FICE) is known in higher education for originating the FICE code, the six-digit institutional identifier assigned to each higher education (two-year and above) institution.

The FICE code is a six-digit identification code that was used to identify all schools doing business with the Office of Education during the early sixties. This code is no longer used in IPEDS; it has been replaced by the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) ID code.[6]


For 2006, the ED discretionary budget was US$56 billion and the mandatory budget contained $23.4 billion. Currently, the budget is $68.6 billion, according to the Dept. of Education website.

Related legislation

See also


Further reading

  • Cabinetmakers: Story of the Three-Year Battle to Establish the U.S. Department of Education. Author: Robert V. Heffernan. 2001. ISBN: 9780595158706

External links



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