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Future Policy Directions for Congress in Ensuring Equality of Opportunity: Toward Improved Incentives, Targeting, and Enforcement

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1

Elizabeth DeBray and Ann Elizabeth Blankenship, University of Georgia

ABSTRACT

Congress's role in defining and promoting equality of educational opportunity has evolved over the past 55 years since Brown v. Board of Education. Most recently, all three branches of the federal government have focused more on equality of educational opportunity for individual students rather than for protected classes. In this article, the authors combine two different frameworks to assess Congress's evolving role in ensuring equality of educational opportunity for all students—particularly given the new political and economic realities facing the nation. The first is federalism; the second is policy instruments for advancing varied goals in education, which the authors use to examine specific policy domains where Congress might increase its impact on equality of educational opportunity. These domains are concerned with “incentivizing equity” through competitive grants designed to reduce racial and socioeconomic inequality, improving existing categorical grant programs to make them more targeted and efficient, and strengthening enforcement of existing policies and programs. Throughout, the authors consider how recent research about equality of best be brought to bear on congressional priorities. In conclusion, they discuss the political realities facing Congress in 2012 and beyond, including partisanship and the prospect of cuts to pre-K-12 education spending.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Elizabeth DeBray is an associate professor in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration & Policy in the College of Education, University of Georgia. She received her Ed.D. from Harvard University. Her research interests are the politics of federal education policy, policy implementation, and interest group politics, including the role of intermediary organizations in disseminating research and information about education reforms.

Ann Elizabeth Blankenship is a doctoral student in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration & Policy in the College of Education, University of Georgia. She received her J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Her research focuses include diversity in education and personnel law in education.