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Education and the Constitution

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 87, No. 4

John E. Haubenreich, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University


The last 50 years have seen a massive increase in the federal role in public education in the United States and a marked increase in the tension between the federal government and the states with respect to control over education. This article investigates the history of education in America, particularly with respect to federal versus state power. By examining primary sources from the colonial and postcolonial periods, we can glimpse the thoughts and motivations of the United States’ most influential thinkers and leaders, as they were helping build a new country. Furthermore, the decisions of the Supreme Court on education shed light on the history and role of education in our society today. Fundamentally, this article asks the question, Because the federal government plays such a large role in public education, where is education in the Constitution?


John Haubenreich  is a former teacher and Master's student at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education.  He is now a practicing attorney with the law firm of Neal & Harwell, PLC.  He remains highly involved in local, state, and national educational issues, focusing on education jurisprudence, educational equity, social justice, and urban school districts' continuing struggles with desegregation and student assignment plans.