School's In

Federalism and the National Education Agenda

Paul Manna

"Helps move research on education policy from its often peripheral status to where it can illuminate its own domain as well as the broader arena of U.S. domestic policymaking."
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For most of the history of the United States, citizens and elected officials alike considered elementary and secondary education to be the quintessential state and local function. Only in the past four decades, from Lyndon B. Johnson's signing of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to George W. Bush's ambitious but controversial "No Child Left Behind" initiative, has Washington's influence over America's schools increased significantly. Today, many Americans have become more convinced that the U.S. government and the states should play an increasingly important role in the nation's schools.

In School's In, Paul Manna looks over forty years of national education policymaking and asserts that although Washington's influence over American schools has indeed increased, we should neither overestimate the expansion of federal power nor underestimate the resiliency and continuing influence of the states. States are developing comprehensive—often innovative—education policies, and a wide array of educational issues have appeared on the political agenda at the state and national levels.

Manna believes that this overlap is no accident. At the core of his argument is the idea of "borrowing strength," a process by which policy entrepreneurs at one level of government attempt to push their agendas by leveraging the capabilities possessed by other governments in the federal system. Our nation's education agenda, he says, has taken shape through the interaction of policy makers at national and state levels who borrow strength from each other to develop and enact educational reforms.

Based on analyses of public laws, presidential speeches, congressional testimony, public opinion, political advertising, and personal interviews, School's In draws on concepts of federalism and agenda-setting to offer an original view of the growing federal role in education policy. It provides insights not only about how education agendas have changed and will likely unfold in the future, but also about the very nature of federalism in the United States.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables


List of Abbreviations

Part I. Foundations

1. Introduction

2. Borrowing Strength, Federalism, and Agenda Setting

Part II. Evidence and Explanations

3. Patterns of Federal Interest in Education

4. Patterns of Federal Involvement in Education

5. Borrowing Strength, Federalism, and Education Agendas

6. Leaving No Child Behind in the American Federal System

Part III. Implications

7. Borrowing Strength and Education Politics

8. Setting the Agenda in the American Federal System





"Helps move research on education policy from its often peripheral status to where it can illuminate its own domain as well as the broader arena of U.S. domestic policymaking."—Teachers College Record

"Manna's book combines a new analytical framework with solid empirical evidence. The result is a fresh and illuminating perspective on federalism in the U.S."—William T. Gormley Jr., University Professor, Georgetown University

"This is an excellent book. [It] offers a very distinct approach to considering the national government's role in education policy and offers many new insights into the politics of policymaking within a federal system. I can well imagine the book being adopted in political science courses on federalism; policy program courses on intergovernmental management, and education courses on educational policymaking. The author has used the politics of education reform as a rich site for theory development. The result is a terrific book based on superior scholarship. It will be essential reading for people interested in agenda-setting, policy entrepreneurship, and federalism."—Michael Mintrom, University of Auckland

"Paul Manna's book contributes to our understanding of how federalism works by presenting a cogent argument on the growing federal role in K-12 education in the last forty years."—Kenneth K. Wong, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor in Education Policy, Professor of Education and Public Policy Director of Urban Education Policy Program, Brown University

"School's In offers a fresh perspective on American federalism. It addresses the intriguing question of why the federal government has gotten so much more involved in education policy. The answer has implications well beyond education policy. Manna develops a new theoretical understanding of how agendas are set in a federal system. By integrating original interviews with a range of other data sources, School's In offers a comprehensive account of how political entrepreneurs work the federal system to expand the national government's role. Accessible and theoretically rigorous, this book will be of interest to scholars of American education policy, federalism, agenda setting, and state and local politics."—Michael Berkman, associate professor, Department of Political Science, Penn State University

"Paul Manna has written an important book. He has simultaneously written the most comprehensive study of federal education policy in recent years and made a major contribution to the study of agenda-setting and federalism. Manna’s notion of borrowing strength is a conceptual breakthrough in our understanding of the interrelationships between policymaking and governing institutions."—Bryan D. Jones, Donald R. Matthews Distinguished Professor of American Politics, University of Washington

"A masterful look at the evolution of the complicated politics surrounding national education policymaking. A must-read whether you study or work on education policy."—Andrew J. Rotherham, co-director, Education Sector, and senior fellow, Progressive Policy Institute


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Paul Manna is an assistant professor in the Department of Government and is affiliated with the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at the College of William and Mary.

222 pp., 6 x 9

Jun 2006

222 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-090-1
Jun 2006

222 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-410-7
Jun 2006

American Governance and Public Policy series
Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors

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