The United States Department of Education was created in 1979 (by PL 96-88) as a Cabinet-level department of the United States government, and began operating in 1980.
Its functions were previously in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare which was divided into the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services when President Carter signed the Department of Education Organization Act into law on October 17, 1979. It began operation on May 4, 1980. It is administered by the United States Secretary of Education.
It is by far the smallest cabinet-level department, with little over 4,000 employees.
Unlike the educational system of many other countries, education in the United States is highly decentralized, and the Federal government and Department of Education are not heavily involved in determining curriculum or educational standards. Rather, the primary function of the United States Department of Education is to administer federal funding programs involving education and to enforce federal educational laws involved with privacy and civil rights. The quality of educational institutions and their degrees is maintained through an informal process known as accreditation which the Department of Education has no direct control over.
A previous Department of Education was created in 1867, but was soon demoted to an Office in 1868. Its creation a century later in 1979 was controversial and opposed by many in the Republican Party, who saw the Department as unwanted Federal bureaucratic intrusion into local affairs. Throughout the 1980s, the abolition of the Department of Education was a part of the Republican Party platform, but several Republican administrations declined to implement this idea, and by the 1990s there was bipartisan support for the continuation of the department.
- Office of Federal Student Aid
- Office for Civil Rights
- Office of Educational Research and Improvement
- Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
- Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students
- Office of Postsecondary Education
- Office of Special Educational and Rehabilitation Services
- Office of Vocational and Adult Education
Office of Inspector General
1944 - Servicemen's Readjustment Act PL 78-346
1952 - Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act PL 82-550
1958 - National Defense Education Act PL 85-864
1963 - Health Professions Education Assistance Act PL 88-129
1963 - Higher Education Facilities Act PL 88-204
1964 - National Defense Education Act Amendments PL 88-665
1965 - Health Professions Education Assistance Act Extension PL 89-290
1965 - Higher Education Act PL 89-329
1972 - Higher Education Act Amendments PL 92-318
1978 - Middle Income Student Assistance Act PL 95-566
1979 - Department of Education established PL 96-88
1992 - Higher Education Act PL 102-325
1993 - Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act PL 103-66