The “State” Right of Education: A Consideration of the Tenth Amendment’s Influence on Executive and Legislative Education Policies

My interest in education policy began during my internship with the National Education Association last fall.  I was challenged to critically examine the efficacy of educational policies with regard to their impact on students, teachers, and families.  I also gained a deeper understanding of the various constraints on policymakers during the drafting and enactment of educational legislation.  Consequently, I began to reflect on potential reasons for the dearth of productive and effective educational policies.  My research paper will propose a possible explanation for this phenomenon.


The American education system is approaching a critical juncture in its historical progression.  Although many policymakers recognize the importance of addressing the vast array of issues in the U.S. education system, these individuals often disagree as to which level of government should maintain primary responsibility for resolving these problems.  I argue that this divergence is a byproduct of an educational precedent set forth by the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Bill Rights.  Because the Constitution does not expressly delegate the responsibility of creating and implementing education policy to the executive or legislative branches, these rights have traditionally been retained by the states.  However, the executive and legislative branches have become increasingly involved in the realm of education policy since the enactment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965.  Although well intentioned, many federal initiatives such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 have produced disappointing results and sparked debate about whether leaders in the executive and legislative branches should continue to be involved in education policy.  Those who favor a state-oriented approach to education legislation perceive the outcomes of past federal initiatives as evidence of the futility of executive and legislative involvement in education.  Moreover, these individuals believe that the states reserve the sole right to enact educational legislation.  Advocates of an executive/legislative-oriented approach to education policy, on the other hand, believe that these federal branches should have a greater say in the design of education policies.  These individuals suggest that federal policymakers need only alter the approach and design of their initiatives in order to procure more favorable outcomes.


My research will therefore examine the Tenth Amendment’s impact on the efficacy of executive and legislative initiatives in education since the passage of ESEA.  This paper will analyze the effect of state-imposed interpretations of and limitations on presidential and congressional education policies in order to assess the success of these executive and legislative initiatives.  I hope to identify some of the primary shortcomings of previous federal education policies in order to articulate suggestions for improving future initiatives.  This paper will also comment on the current debate regarding the appropriate roles of the President, Congress, and individual states in the realm of education policy.


Thank you for your interest in my research.  I look forward to your feedback!


Katelyn Lee

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

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