Education Law and Legal Definition

Education law is governed by state and federal statutes and agencies responsible for its administration. The U.S Department of Education is the executive department of the federal government responsible for advising on educational plans and policies and administration of the department, which provides assistance for education and carries out educational research. It was established (1867) as an independent government agency and then transferred (1869) to the Dept. of the Interior as the Bureau of Education. In 1939 the bureau, by executive order, was transferred to the Federal Security Agency, which in 1953 became the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare. It became an independent department in 1979. Within the Dept. of Education are offices of elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, special education and rehabilitative services, bilingual education and minority languages, vocational and adult education, civil rights, and educational research and improvement.

The public school system is administered locally through the state department of education. The states, therefore, have primary responsibility for the maintenance and operation of public schools. Each state is required by its state constitution to provide a school system to educate its children. Many state legislatures delegate power over the school system to a state board of education. Taxation methods to fund school systems varies by state. The Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974 provides that no state shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on the basis of race, color, sex, or national origin.

States also have the power to regulate private schools and home schools. In some states parents need to register their intent to homeschool with the department of education or the local district school board. In addition, many states require yearly proof of progress. The U.S. Constitution restricts public funding of private schools.

For children with disabilities special education is available. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq) establishes a process for evaluating a child's special needs and for providing an individualized education program. Under the Act, parents and families of special education children have specific rights such as the right to inspect the child's school records.