The United States Department of Education (ED) is a department of the federal government that administers and co-ordinates federal assistance to education. The Department assists the President in executing national education policies and in implementing laws enacted by Congress. It also establishes policies for federal assistance to education. The Department of Education was established by the Congress on May 4, 1980 pursuant to the Department of Education Organization Act. The Department has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Department aims to serve American students, ensure equal access to education, and promote excellence in American schools. The mission of the Department is to:
- Encourage involvement of the public, parents, and students in federal education programs;
- Promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education by federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information;
- Improve coordination of federal education programs;
- Improve management of federal education activities; and
- Increase accountability of federal education programs to the President, the Congress, and the public.
- Strengthen federal commitment in assuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;
- Support efforts of states, local school systems and other instrumentalities of the states, the private sector, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community based organizations, parents, and students to improve the quality of education;
In order to achieve its mission, ED engages in four activities. These activities include:
- Establishing policies relating to federal financial aid for education; distributing the funds; and monitoring their use.
- Collecting information such as recent trends in education and overseeing research on different aspects of American education. ED also makes general public aware of such information by publishing/ printing the reports.
- Making recommendations for education reform. The Department identifies the major issues and problems in educations and brings it to the forefront to gain national attention.
- Ensuring that every individual has equal access to education regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. The Department also enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal funds.
The Department of Education is headed by the Secretary of Education. The Secretary is a member of the cabinet. The Secretary aims to increase public awareness regarding the mission and goals of the Department. Being a member of the President’s cabinet, the Secretary advises the President on federal policies, educational programs, and other activities related to education in the United States. The Secretary is nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate.
The Deputy Secretary and the Under Secretary helps the Secretary in the overall management of the Department. Additionally, the Secretary appoints an Assistant Secretary to oversee eight program offices established by the ED.
The Department operations are handled by the Office of Management, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer. The Office of General Counsel, Office of Public Affairs, Planning and Evaluation Service, and the Office of the Inspector General audits help the ED in discharging its duties.
The Office of General Counsel provides legal services to the Secretary and other Department officials. It also helps in preparing regulatory documents, and coordinating the regulatory review process. To prevent fraud, waste, and abuse of the education programs, the Office of the Inspector General audits and investigates the programs.
The Office of Public Affairs helps the Secretary in providing useful information about education and related opportunities to the media, students, parents, and communities. External relations of the Department are handled by the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs. The Planning and Evaluation Service works with the Budget Service and engages in program evaluations, strategic planning, and policy analysis.
There are eight important program offices under the ED designed to achieve the goals of the Department. The eight program offices are:
- The Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students – designed to make students proficient in English/enhance proficiency
- The Office for Civil Rights – enforcing federal statutes prohibiting discrimination in educational programs/federal grants for education.
- The Office of Educational Research and Improvement – designed to support research programs, and making the public aware of the recent improvements in educational field.
- The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education – designed to provide academic support to the needy American children.
- The Office of Postsecondary Education – designed to provide grants for the postsecondary education institutions for reform, innovation, and improvement.
- The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services – designed to enforce programs for the needy and disabled children/adults.
- The Office of Federal Student Aid – administers the systems and products related to providing billions of dollars annually in federal financial aid to millions of students pursuing postsecondary education and training opportunities. The office provides information and forms for students applying for loans, grants, and work-study funds, as well as technical information for financial aid administrators, lending institutions, auditors, and others in the field. In 1998, this office became the first performance-based organization in the federal government, with increased accountability for results and greater flexibility in operations.
- The Office of Vocational and Adult Education – designs program that would help the students to gain employment/skills necessary to obtain a high school diploma or the equivalent.