Federal Demand and Local Choice: Safeguarding the Notion of Federalism in Education Law and Policy
Kamina Aliya Pinder
Atlanta's John Marshall Law School
August 7, 2009
As the ESEA undergoes its next transformation under a new presidential administration, this article explores the appropriate federal and state roles in promoting and enforcing laws related to academic achievement, and the appropriate judicial role in interpreting them. Part I of this article provides an overview of how the modern federal role in education law and policy was shaped through politics and litigation. Part II explores the drastic changes that No Child Left Behind brought to education federalism through the lens of cooperation, coercion (enforcement), and competition. It then analyzes the appropriate role of the executive branch in enforcing educational access and achievement and the appropriate role of the courts in adjudicating issues of education law and policy. Finally, Part III provides recommendations that will result in a more workable model of accountability by sketching out clearer boundaries related to the federal and state roles in the effort to improve the nation’s academic achievement. This new model of accountability uses national assessment and reporting requirements to shift much of the enforcement responsibility of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to the states while allowing districts the flexibility to experiment with educational approaches. It also sets forth parameters that allow for general federal oversight of national education policy while respecting the boundaries integral to cooperative federalism.
Keywords: education, federalism, administrative law
JEL Classification: I20, I21,I22,I28,I29
Date posted: August 24, 2009