United States Office of Education

(Redirected from U.S. Office of Education)

The Office of Education, at times known as the Department of Education and the Bureau of Education, was a small unit in the Federal Government of the United States within the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1867 to 1972. It is now separated into and succeeded by the United States Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services.


In 1857, Congressman Morrill introduced a bill for the establishment, through the aid of public land grants, of State colleges throughout the country primarily for the teaching of agriculture and the mechanical arts. On Monday, February 1, 1858, a petition of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture was presented to the Senate "praying that a donation of land be made to each of the States for the establishment of agricultural colleges." Neither of the proposals was accepted until the time of the 16th President, with the Lincoln administration (1861–65), after which it became necessary to gather information on the many schools already in existence, as well as on those being built.

Following the Civil War, shifts in political thought led to increased federal involvement in education. The pre-war tradition of local funding of and control over education clashed with a push from reformers for increased state and federal educational leadership. Additionally, the creation of social science associations generated interest in data-driven approaches to governance at all levels.[1]

Inception and developmentEdit

The Office was created on March 2, 1867, as the Department of Education, using the same titles as another unit which it superseded.[2] Educator Zalmon Richards was largely responsible for Congress creating the Office.[3][4] Henry Barnard was appointed as the first United States Commissioner of Education in 1867.[5] On June 30, 1869, the Department lost its independent status and became the Office of Education within the Department of the Interior (and temporarily renamed Bureau of Education from 1870 to 1929), where it would remain until 1939 when transferred to the newly created Federal Security Agency (F.S.A.), in the "New Deal" programs of 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, until the setting-up of the Presidential Cabinet-level, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in April 1953, under 33rd President Harry Truman and his newly inaugurated successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th chief executive.[5] Barnard's personal book collection, later purchased by the Bureau, was the nucleus of what would become the National Library of Education.[5] Barnard resigned on March 15, 1870, and was replaced by John Eaton who remained Commissioner until 1886.[5] In 1870, the unit began to be called the "Bureau of Education".[5] The Bureau reverted to the original name "Office of Education" in 1929.[6][7] By 1979, under the administration of 39th President Jimmy Carter, old H.E.W. was split with a continuing Cabinet-level agency of the U. S. Department of Education was set off along with a separate U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also still in the Cabinet.


The original non-Cabinet-level Department of Education was created to provide educational information to the state and local education authorities (many of which had already been established and created during the preceding decades on the state, city, town and county levels).[5] The collecting of educational statistics had already begun in parts of Europe. The Office of Education was created to meet the need to gather statistical information on the fast-growing educational institutions of the United States, along with histories and descriptive articles, pamphlets, reports and books, often in coordination with state universities. Reformers (especially Radical Republicans and Progressive and liberal Democrats) hoped that the Office would become a powerful federal agency, but were frustrated at every turn by Congress, which did not or want to trespass on the right of the states and local jurisdictions in the cities, towns and counties to control educational policy - the time of "states' rights" was still in full sway, despite the recent Civil War, and it would take several other domestic and foreign crises in the coming decades to bring a sense of a more centralized and national policy to the forefront to make up for increasingly embarrassing shortfalls in comparison between America and overseas educational programs, especially in Europe.

The Bureau, and later Office, of Education was a unit of the U.S. Department of the Interior, therefore it was under the aegis of the Secretary of the Interior. It had no power to control the actions of educational institutions. At times during its first decades of its existence, attempts were made to change its name. These names (Board, Department, Office, and Bureau) were considered. In 1873, a bill (H. R. 3782) was introduced which would change its name to the Bureau of Education and Statistics.

The Commissioner of Education was required to prepare a Report annually, which was printed and given to members of Congress (U.S. Senators and Representatives), other governmental officials and certain other persons. In 1875, 20,000 copies of the Report for 1874 were printed; 5,000 copies for the use of members of the Senate, 10,000 copies for the use of members of the House of Representatives, and 5,000 copies for the use of the Commissioner of Education and their Office.

The Office gathered information on diverse educational facilities such as those being built (i.e. the famous Carlisle Indian Industrial School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania in the east and near western reservations) to bring an education and vocational/agricultural training to American Indians in which there had already been historically established a direct and prominent national Federal role and obligation towards the treatment and education of Indians as well as all of the facilities in all of the other places.

Dissolution and legacyEdit

In 1972, Public Law 92-318 provided the repeal of the law which had created the Office of Education. The repeal took effect on July 1, 1972.

The Office of Education had a unifying influence on the different educational institutions of the United States, caused by supplying the leaders of the institutions with information that enabled them to know of the practices of other institutions. The direct organizational descendant of the Office of Education is the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.




  1. ^ Steudeman, Michael J. (May 2018). "From Civic Imperative to Bird's-Eye View: Renegotiating the Idioms of Education Governance during the Reconstruction Era". History of Education Quarterly. 58 (2): 199–228. doi:10.1017/heq.2018.3. ISSN 0018-2680.
  2. ^ Copy of 1867 Department of Education Act As Enacted
  3. ^ Bowerman, Sarah G. (1935). "Zalmon Richards". Dictionary of American Biography. 15: 561–62. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  4. ^ Wilson, J. Ormond (1900). "Zalmon Richards". Addresses and Proceedings - National Education Association of the United States. 39: 713–15. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The History of the NLE: Office of Education Library – Early Years" at the National Library of Education website. 3 April 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  6. ^ "The History of the NLE: Reorganized Office of Education Library" at the National Library of Education website. 3 April 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  7. ^ "The History of the NLE: Library Consolidation – The HEW Library" at the National Library of Education website. 3 April 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2012.


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