Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Philo Hutcheson, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Wayne Urban, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Deron Boyles, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Donna Breault, Ph.D.


This dissertation uses historical analysis to understand the political and social conditions that allowed for the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Education when many congressional representatives, state governments, and citizens of the United States were ideologically against federal involvement in education. A cabinet-level Department of Education posed problems for the United States because nowhere in the nation’s Constitution is education mentioned, thus leaving education to be a function of the states according to the 10th Amendment. This dissertation looks at calls for a department of education leading up to and including the one initiated by Jimmy Carter. Conducting a historical analysis of the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Education allows for the analysis not only of educational policies but also of culture and society both outside of and within the political sphere. This study relies on documents from the Carter presidency, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Congressional records, education polls, and the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as secondary sources related to the various calls for a creation of a cabinet-level Department of Education and policy pieces associated with the creation. The study concludes that while the legislation for the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Education was politically motivated, it would have been difficult to pass if the groundwork for federal involvement in education had not already been put in place through previous congressional legislation and court decisions. By easing public sentiment and creating a need for managerial and administrative reform these prior acts of Congress and the courts paved the way for a cabinet-level Department of Education.