In the late 1860s, President Andrew Johnson created the first federal Department of Education. This department had a number of functions, including tracking educational statistics. In the mid-1960s, it was elevated to “Office” status and no longer belonged to the president’s cabinet. Today, the Department of Education oversees the Federal Student Aid program, which provides low-interest loans and grants to students. In 2006, President Obama established a Cabinet-level office to oversee the education of the nation’s children.
As the 11th secretary of education, Betsy DeVos will soon begin her work. The new secretary has both critics and supporters. Though her policies are slimmer than those of previous administrations, supporters and opponents are closely watching her policies. While the Department of Education does not directly oversee the nation’s 100,000 public schools, it has a considerable influence on how those schools operate. In fact, while the federal government provides some oversight, the largest part of the funding goes to individual states and local municipalities.
But the Department of Education’s policies are uncertain. For one thing, the Trump administration has put a freeze on state evaluation plans, which must be federally approved. Meanwhile, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says states should proceed with their proposals. While these positions seem to make the federal government less involved, they are unlikely to dictate specific policies. Nevertheless, if the Trump administration doesn’t enforce these rules, it’s likely that the Department of Education will take a softer approach to evaluating schools.