The High Cost of Education Federalism

45 Pages Posted: 10 May 2013 Last revised: 13 Sep 2013

Kimberly Robinson

University of Richmond - School of Law

Date Written: May 2, 2013


Many herald the nation’s tradition of state and local control of education and a limited federal role as a vital national tradition that reaps numerous benefits. However, this approach to education federalism also has served as a hindrance to reforms that sought to advance equal educational opportunity. This Article examines the systematic ways that education federalism has limited the effectiveness of three vehicles for advancing equal educational opportunity: school desegregation, school finance litigation and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It also highlights how the Court and Congress have employed a dualist understanding of education federalism to reach conclusions that failed to ensure equal educational opportunity. It concludes that understanding how education federalism has undermined some past reforms provides an essential foundation for exploring new avenues to ensuring that all children have an equal opportunity to obtain an excellent education.

JEL Classification: I00, I20, I21, I22, I28, I29, I30, I31, I32, I38, J70

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Kimberly, The High Cost of Education Federalism (May 2, 2013). 48 Wake Forest L Rev 287. Available at SSRN:

Kimberly Robinson (Contact Author)

University of Richmond - School of Law ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States
804-289-8985 (Phone)
804-289-8992 (Fax)


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