Intergovernmental Relations In Education

Relationships between branches and levels of government are important in the administration and delivery of educational services in all countries. National ministries of education may wish to control all phases of education, but they inevitably must delegate significant aspects of the operation and delivery of educational services to lower levels of government. The more decentralized the governance system, and the more branches and levels of government there are, the more complex intergovernmental relationships may be. But, even in nations with highly centralized approaches to governance, the relationship between the central ministry of education and schools and colleges is important. Any government’s policies are only as effective as their design and implementation permit, and effective implementation is heavily influenced by the character of the relationship that exists between branches and levels of government.
Governance Structures
Most nations have a unitary government, which means that the central government holds sovereign power over all lower levels of government. The lower levels of government are subordinate to the national government, which can overrule or even abolish them. By contrast, some nations have adopted federal governance systems, in which power is shared between the national government and state or regional units, which cannot be abolished. These federations with constitutions developed in nations, such as Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United States, where regional differences are important and where former colonies or semiautonomous states banded together out of common interest. In federal systems, education usually is the legal responsibility of the state governments rather than the national government. Still, even in federal systems, national interests in such matters as equality of opportunity and educational adequacy and excellence inevitably cause the national governments to play a role in education.
Whether control over a nation’s government is democratic or autocratic, and whether a unitary or federal system is used, there can be significant variation in the degree to which the government is centralized or decentralized. By definition, one expects decentralization in federal systems, but this is not always the case. For example, until the mid-1980s Australia’s states ran highly centralized statewide education systems in which all but the simplest decisions were made in the state ministries of education in the capitol cities. For the most part, Germany’s states continue to run highly centralized education systems.
Beginning in the 1980s, a reform movement advocating decentralization and much greater decision-making at the school level (school-based management or “self-managing schools”) began to spread across the world, especially the English-speaking world. School-based management sought to restructure the decision-making chain of command by shifting authority from highly centralized bureaucracies to the school site level. New Zealand adopted this approach completely, and some Australian states have moved in this direction. Britain presents a complex and interesting example of these trends. It has reduced the power of the local education authorities (roughly equivalent to American and Canadian school districts) and given schools much more decision-making authority, but the entire system operates under a powerful central government in London. In the United States, more than one-third of all school districts have implemented some version of school-based management, and at least five states�Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas�have legislated participatory decision-making at each school.
The high degree of decentralization in the structure of educational governance in the United States is unusual. The kind of local control that exists in the United States, through the delegation by states of substantial decision-making power to elected school boards of lay citizens in some 15,000 local school districts, is rare. Most nations have far more centralized arrangements. In European nations, such as France and Germany, civil servants operating within highly bureaucratized agencies or ministries of education tightly control the education system. In these settings, local citizens have little or no voice in decision-making for schools, and a highly professionalized (or at least bureaucratized) cadre of educators hold sway.
The stark contrast between, on the one hand, highly centralized and bureaucratized systems of governance and, on the other hand, decentralized systems that allow for local and lay participation in educational policy-making raises the question of how best to structure the governance of education. Here, it is common to see a tension between competing values. Efficiency, it can be argued, is best served by a centralized system that can better ensure consistent standards throughout a nation than a decentralized system. On the other hand, centralized systems are prone to develop bureaucratic rigidities that can ultimately impede efficiency, not to mention liberty and democracy. Debates about the proper governance of public services, in fact, often seem to revolve around the tension between the competing values of democracy and efficiency. Unfortunately, by themselves neither centralized nor decentralized approaches to government can guarantee either democracy or efficiency.

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Constitutional Requirements Governing American Education

The right to a free public education is found in the various state constitutions and not in the federal constitution. Every state has a provision in its constitution, commonly called the “education article,” that guarantees some form of free public education, usually through the twelfth grade. The federal constitution, on the other hand, contains no such guarantee. In San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriquez, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 held that education is not a “fundamental right” under the U.S. Constitution. Thus, as a matter of constitutional law, the founding fathers left it to the states to decide whether to provide an education or not and, if deciding to provide one, determine at what level of quality.
Not only does the federal constitution confer no right to education, it does not even explicitly empower the U.S. Congress to legislate on the subject. Most federal education legislation is therefore enacted under the “spending clause” of the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to tax and spend for the general welfare. Since federal grants to the states may be conditioned upon the state’s adoption of certain legal and regulatory structures, the federal government has been able to exercise substantial authority over K�12 education policy. For example, in South Dakota v. Dole, the Supreme Court in 1987 upheld a federal law withholding a percentage of federal highway funds from any state that declined to raise its minimum drinking age to twenty-one. This kind of carrot-and-stick approach underlies much federal education law, from the setting of nationwide achievement standards to the education of students with disabilities to Title I and other federal grants relating to education. That other great source of federal regulatory authority, the Constitution’s “commerce clause,” however, has not been used to justify federal legislation in these areas. In United States v. Lopez, the Supreme Court in 1995 held that a law making it a crime to possess a firearm within a certain distance of a school was an impermissible overextension of Congress’s commerce power. Even the justices dissenting in Lopez agreed that the content of education was a classic area of state, not federal, authority.
Nevertheless, once a state decides to provide an education to its children, as every state has, the provision of such education must be consistent with other federally guaranteed constitutional rights, such as the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to equal protection under the law and the First Amendment’s right to the free exercise of, and the nonestablishment of, religion. Therefore, even though the U.S. Constitution does not, in the first instance, require that an education be provided, it nevertheless has had a significant effect on American education.
Any treatment of education and constitutional rights must begin with the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees every citizen equal protection under the law. Application of this doctrine has been most profound in the area of school desegregation. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state-sponsored racial segregation of schools in the famous case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. This decision and hundreds of later court decisions applying it to individual school districts all over the United States have had major ramifications on virtually every facet of school district operations from the mid-1950s into the twenty-first century. This has been true not only in the South, but throughout the rest of the country, as school districts and courts struggled with how to effectively desegregate the nation’s schools. In the decades since Brown, most school districts have eliminated “vestiges” of state-sponsored segregation, have been declared to be a “unitary” school district (as opposed to a former dual-race system), and have been released from federal court supervision.
Nevertheless, many unitary school districts, now concerned that their schools will become resegregated, are seeking to take steps to preserve racial diversity at their schools. In one of the supreme ironies of American jurisprudence, such efforts may now be illegal under the same Fourteenth Amendment that previously required school districts to employ race-conscious student assignments as a remedial measure but forbids such measures as a means of preserving integrated schools in school districts no longer under court supervision.
Another major constitutional issue facing American education involves public funding of vouchers for private schools. Although several states have enacted limited voucher programs, their legality and continued existence remains in doubt under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which requires the separation of church and state. In June 2002 the Supreme Court ruled that students in the Cleveland, Ohio, area may use state-funded vouchers to pay tuition at private schools, including schools with a religious affiliation. The decision in this case is likely to have a significant impact for decades to come.
As desegregation lawsuits in federal courts wind down, the most important constitutional litigation involving education is increasingly taking place in state courts, as plaintiffs’ groups seek to enforce state constitutional guarantees. Beginning in the early 1970s plaintiffs’ groups began to make constitutional challenges to the heavy use of local property tax revenues in most states to finance public schools. This system of funding public schools often resulted in large disparities in per-pupil expenditures between property-rich and property-poor districts. As a result of a series of these “equity” suits, which were based on state constitutional guarantees of equal protection and uniformity, most states in the years since the early 1980s have reformed their state education funding formulas to provide a greater degree of equity (although not complete equality) in funding between school districts. This has been accomplished in many states by providing more state-level funding to property-poor districts to offset their lower local revenues, and less state funding to property-rich districts.

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Peace Education

Peace education encompasses the key concepts of education and peace. While it is possible to define education as a process of systematic institutionalized transmission of knowledge and skills, as well as of basic values and norms that are accepted in a certain society, the concept of peace is less clearly defined. Many writers make an important distinction between positive and negative peace. Negative peace is defined as the absence of large-scale physical violence�the absence of the condition of war. Positive peace involves the development of a society in which, except for the absence of direct violence, there is no structural violence or social injustice. Accordingly, peace education could be defined as an interdisciplinary area of education whose goal is institutionalized and noninstitutionalized teaching about peace and for peace. Peace education aims to help students acquire skills for nonviolent conflict resolution and to reinforce these skills for active and responsible action in the society for the promotion of the values of peace. Therefore, unlike the concept of conflict resolution, which can be considered to be retroactive�trying to solve a conflict after it has already occurred�peace education has a more proactive approach. Its aim is to prevent a conflict in advance or rather to educate individuals and a society for a peaceful existence on the basis of nonviolence, tolerance, equality, respect for differences, and social justice.
The Development of Peace Education and Its Basic Principles
The understanding of the concept of peace has changed throughout history, and so has its role and importance in the educational system from the very beginnings of the institutionalized socialization of children. When discussing the evolution of peace education, however, there have been a few important points in history that defined its aims and actions. The end of World War I (1914�1918) brought powerful support for the need for international cooperation and understanding and helped instill a desire to include these ideas in educational systems. The League of Nations and a number of nongovernmental organizations worked together on these ideas, especially through the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation, an organization that was the predecessor of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World War II (1939�1945) ended with millions of victims and the frightening use of atomic weapons against Japan, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1946 UNESCO was founded as an umbrella institution of the United Nations, and it was charged with planning, developing, and implementing general changes in education according to the international politics of peace and security. The statute of this organization reinforced the principle of the role of education in the development of peace, and a framework was created for including and applying the principles of peace in the general world education systems. The cold war division of the world after World War II and the strategy of the balance of fear between the so-called West and East blocs redirected the peace efforts. The peace movement began concentrating on stopping the threat of nuclear war, halting the arms race, and encouraging disarmament. Somewhat parallel to this, the issues of environmental protection and development found their place in peace education programs. The contemporary sociopolitical environment (particularly the events in eastern Europe since the early 1990s, the fear of terrorism, and the increasing gap between developed and undeveloped countries) has created new challenges for the understanding of peace and for the development of the underlying principles of responsibility and security.
A 1996 book by Robin Burns and Robert Aspeslagh showed that the field and the themes that are included in peace education are diverse. The diversity is evident in theoretical approaches, underlying philosophies, basic methodology, and goals. Within the field of peace education, therefore, one can find a variety of issues, ranging from violence in schools to international security and cooperation, from the conflict between the developed world and the undeveloped world to peace as the ideal for the future, from the question of human rights to the teaching of sustainable development and environmental protection. A critic could say that the field is too wide and that peace education is full of people with good intentions but without a unique theoretical framework, firm methodology, and an evaluation of the outcomes of the practical efforts and programs of peace education. Some within the field would generally agree with this criticism. Nevertheless, the importance of accepting the specific situations in which programs for peace are being implemented and held should be emphasized. Owing to these specifics, difficulties emerge when one tries to define the unique approach, methodology, and evaluation of the efficiency of applied programs. The complex systems of society, the circumstances, and the context make the peace education field very active and diverse.

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