The Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA): Everything You Need to Know

In 1965, the ESEA was passed in order to address certain aspects of educational policy. The aspects of policy that this act is concerned with include funding of education up until the end of high school. This aids in the removal of achievement gaps between students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

On April 9, 1965, the U.S. Congress enacted the ESEA as part of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Being a former teacher, President Lyndon B. Johnson believed that equal access to education was vital in enabling students to become productive citizens. The ESEA was a landmark legislation that specially authorized the federal government to equalize the educational opportunities of all students by directing federal education funds to the most disadvantaged students living in poverty. 

Apart from creating a federal responsibility in directing public education funds to policy goals, such as eradicating poverty, the ESEA also depended on state governments to manage funding to steer clear of the criticism of federal control. This caused the expansion of state education departments and a bigger role for the states in forming education policies.

Title I of the ESEA provides the necessary provisions to allocate federal funding to schools. Title II gives federal funding to purchase textbooks or other instructional materials and stock school libraries. Title III funds supplementary educational centers to offer more options to students for educational improvements and remedial aid. Title IV provides funds for collegiate research to improve instruction and training in all schools. 

Title V fortifies the authority of State Departments of Education and allots funding. Title VI is an amendment that widens provisions to cover disabled children, together with other Great Society programs to aid the disabled. Title VII was an early amendment to the ESEA that provided for federal funding to bilingual education and dedicated programs for the development of Native Americans, Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians.

Since its inception, the ESEA has been reauthorized eight times. This includes the IASA (Improving America’s Schools Act) of 1994 and the NCLB (No Child Left Behind Act) of 2001. On December 10, 2015, it was reauthorized as the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) under President Obama. The new law offered flexibility to states from some of the most cumbersome provisions the earlier law had. To qualify for this flexibility, states had to show that they adopted college and career-ready assessments and standards; executed school accountability systems that emphasized the lowest-performing schools and those troubled by the biggest achievement gaps; and ensured that districts were implementing principal and teacher evaluation and support systems.

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