Department of Education
The Department of Education, irrespective of the country, always has a great responsibility to bear. This is because it is responsible for the future of hundreds of thousands of youngsters. Education is the joint responsibility of the federal, state and local governments. However, the contribution of the federal government in this field accounts for only 10 percent of the total effort. Everything to do with education at the primary and secondary school levels is taken care of by local school boards and school districts. Hence, curriculum can also vary from school district to district.
Most states require children up to the age of 16 or 18 to attend school. They can attend public schools, private schools, or home schools. Dropout rate in the US is the highest among the developed nations. Also, the literacy rate here is pretty low in comparison to counterparts. For a majority of the population, lack of funds is the reason they drop out of school and are unable to continue with higher education.
The US Department of Education in its current form was created in 1980 with the objective of providing educational to all equally and for achieving excellence in education on a national level. However, the original Department of Education was created way back in 1867. At that time its primary goal was gathering information on schools and teaching systems to help the states come up with effective education plans. Over the years various factors influenced the functioning of the department, but not so much its manpower. The current staff strength is almost half of what it was more than two decades ago.
The Department of Education is also involved with conducting research and coming up with statistics related to the different aspects of education. It provides assistance to state education departments and local educational bodies whenever required. The federal Department of Education also assists the president in formulating and implementing educational policies. Another function of the department is to facilitate greater public involvement in various education programs. Some areas that the Department of Education takes a particular interest in include adult education, rehabilitation and research and development amongst others.
The current annual budget of the Department of Education is $88.9 billion and is used to benefit at least 54 million students over the country. About a quarter of those students are also recipients of financial assistance in the form of grants and loans. Besides this, schools and educational institutions are also provided individual grants based on certain criteria. Well-known initiatives of the Department of Education include “No Child Left Behind”, “Early Childhood”, and “American Competitiveness Initiative” besides specific programs during times of crisis.
There are eight prominent program offices in the Department of Education. These are: The Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students, Office for Civil Rights, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Federal Student Aid, and the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.