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Federal Programs Overview

The U.S. Department of Education is the agency of the federal government that establishes policy for, administers and coordinates most federal assistance to education. It assists the president in executing his education policies for the nation and in implementing laws enacted by Congress. The Department's mission is to serve America's students-to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

In 2007-08, the Department's elementary and secondary school programs served approximately 55 million students (pre-K through grade 12) attending some 100,000 public schools and 34,000 private schools. Department programs also provided grant, loan and work-study assistance to about 10 million undergraduate students. *

When Congress created the Department in 1979, it declared these purposes:

  1. to strengthen the Federal commitment to ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;

  2. to supplement and complement the efforts of States, the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States, the private sector, public and private educational institutions, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community-based organizations, parents, and students to improve the quality of education;

  3. to encourage the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs;

  4. to promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education through federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information;

  5. to improve the coordination of Federal education programs;

  6. to improve the management and efficiency of Federal education activities, especially with respect to the process, procedures, and administrative structures for the dispersal of Federal funds, as well as the reduction of unnecessary and duplicative burdens and constraints, including unnecessary paperwork, on the recipients of Federal funds; and

  7. to increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress and the public. (Section 102, Public Law 96-88)

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