See Government Grow: Education Politics from Johnson to Reagan / Edition 1

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Overview

Winner of the Richard E. Neustadt Book Prize

When Congress endorsed substantial aid to schools in 1965, the idea that the federal government had any responsibility for public education was controversial. Twenty years later, not only had that controversy dissipated, Washington's role in education had dramatically expanded. Gareth Davies explores how both conservatives and liberals came to embrace the once daring idea of an active federal role in elementary and secondary education and uses that case to probe the persistence—and growth—of big government during a supposedly antigovernment era.

By focusing on institutional changes in government that accompanied the civil rights revolution, Davies shows how initially fragile programs put down roots, built a constituency, and became entrenched. He explains why the federal role in schools continued to expand in the post-LBJ years as the reform impulse became increasingly detached from electoral politics, centering instead on the courts and the federal bureaucracy. Meanwhile, southern resistance to school desegregation had discredited the "states rights" argument, making it easier for conservatives as well as liberals to seek federal solutions to social problems.

Although LBJ's landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act deferred to local control, the legislation of the Nixon-Ford years issued directives that posed greater challenges to traditional federalism than Johnson's grand ideals. As Davies shows, the new political climate saw the achievement of such breakthroughs as mandated bilingual education, school finance reform, and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act—measures that, before the seventies, would have been considered unthinkably intrusive by liberals as well as conservatives. And when Ronald Reagan promised to abolish the Department of Education, conservatives worked with liberals to derail his agenda.

Davies' surprising study shows that the distancing of American conservatism from its anti-statist traditions helped pave the way for today's "big government conservatism," which enabled a Republican-dominated Congress to pass No Child Left Behind. By revealing the endurance of Great Society values during a period of Republican ascendance, his book opens a window on our political process and offers new insight into what really makes government grow.

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
A superb and insightful overview of federal education politics that challenges existing interpretations in several areas such as Nixon's role in southern school desegregation and the development of bilingual education programs. . . . A readable and fascinating account that will be a model for other scholars and undoubtedly stimulate additional research.
American School Board Journal
Will fascinate educational practitioners.
Journal of American History
Makes a persuasive case that, despite the ascendancy of the anti-government right, the seeds planted by the Great Society transformed federal-state relations in education.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700615322
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Gareth Davies is University Lecturer in American History at Oxford University and author of From Opportunity to Entitlement: The Transformation and Decline of Great Society Liberalism, 1964-1972, winner of the Organization of American Historians' Ellis W. Hawley Prize.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     1
The Passage and Consolidation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Race, Religion, and Reds     9
Making History: The Passage of ESEA     29
Putting Down Roots, 1965-1968     47
How Much? Budget Battles, 1969-1977     75
Education and Regulatory Federalism
Ending Massive Resistance: The Federal Government and Southern School Desegregation, 1964-1970     109
Education Reform in the Nixon Administration: The Case of Bilingual Education     141
Transforming Special Education: The Genesis of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act     166
Compensatory Education through the Courts: The Politics of School Finance     194
Education Politics in the Carter-Reagan Years
Teacher Power: Carter, NEA, and the Creation of the Department of Education     221
Education and the Reagan Revolution     246
Conclusion     277
Revenues and Expenditures for Elementary and Secondary School: Selected Years, 1955-2003     289
Notes     291
Index     375
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