Revisiting the 'Tradition of Local Control' in Public Education

41 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2023

See all articles by Carter Brace

Carter Brace

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Date Written: August 7, 2023


In Milliken v. Bradley, the Supreme Court declared “local control” the single most important tradition of public education. Milliken and a number of related cases develop this notion of a tradition, which has frustrated attempts to achieve equitable school funding and desegregation through federal courts. However, despite its significant impact on American education, most scholars have treated the “tradition of local control” as doctrinally insignificant. These scholars depict the tradition either as a policy preference with no formal legal meaning or as one principle among many that courts may use to determine equitable remedies. This Note argues that the Supreme Court conceived of the tradition not merely as good policy or remedial law but as a principle that was supported by multiple freestanding constitutional provisions. It shows how the policy and remedial law explanations for the tradition do not fully explain the Court’s reasoning. It then demonstrates that the Court located the tradition in the federal Constitution’s guarantees of substantive due process, the right to vote, federalism, and the separation of powers.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Education Law

Suggested Citation

Brace, Carter, Revisiting the 'Tradition of Local Control' in Public Education (August 7, 2023). Michigan Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Carter Brace (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

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