1980 15¢ Education
Issue Date: September 12, 1980
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed By: American Banknote Company
Printing Method: Photogravure
Carter Establishes Department Of Education
On October 17, 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed legislation establishing the U.S. Department of Education.
The history of the department dates back to over 100 years earlier, when Congressman Justin Morrill introduced a bill for the creation of public land grants for state colleges. His bill went largely ignored for several years, until President Lincoln’s administration took it under consideration, but first wanted to collect information on the schools already in existence and already being built.
Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, then created the Department of Education on March 2, 1867, largely at the urging of Zalmon Richard. However, the department only retained its independent status for two years before it was changed to the Office of Education within the Department of the Interior. Over the next century, the office would change names, temporarily to the Bureau of Education, and be transferred to the Federal Security Agency and later the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter proposed reinstating a cabinet-level Department of Education in order to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on U.S. schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” Carter signed the Department of Education Organization Act into law on October 17, 1979, with operations officially beginning on May 4, 1980.
The department started out with 3,000 workers and a budget of $12 billion before Congress increased that to 17,000 employees and a $14.2 billion. The Department of Education was made responsible for creating policies, monitoring federal funding of education, studying schools, and ensuring equal education for students – it does not decide what students are taught, that is left to individual states and local offices.
In the 1980 presidential election, Ronald Reagan promised to eliminate the department, as he and his party saw it as unconstitutional and too expensive. After winning the election, Reagan cut funding, but was never able to fully dismantle the department.