Smith-Hughes Act of 1917

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The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, officially the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917 that expanded the national government's power over the states which was initiated by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914.[1] The act was proposed by Senators Hoke Smith and Dudley M. Hughes.[2]

Starting with the 1914 act, the national government began using a regime of grant-in-aid funds in order to control state-level initiatives.[3]

Effect of the act

The legislation gave the government large, unconstitutional powers over education, transferring power from the states to the federal government by the creation of the Federal Board of Vocational Education.[4] One section of the act reads:

That in order to secure the benefits of the appropriation for any purpose specified In this act, the State board shall prepare plans showing the kinds of vocational education for which it Is proposed that the appropriation shall be used; the kinds of schools and equipment; courses of study; methods of instruction; qualifications of teachers; and, in the case of agricultural subjects, the qualifications of supervisors or directors; plans for the training of teachers; and, In the case of agricultural subjects, plans for the supervision of agricultural education as provided for in section 10. Such plans shall be submitted by the State board to the Federal Board for Vocational Education, and If the Federal board finds the same to be In conformity with the provisions and purposes of this act the same shall be approved. The State board shall make an annual report to the Federal Board of Vocational Education on or before September 1 of each year, on the work done in the State and the receipts and expenditures of money under the provisions of this act. (Section 8)[5]

The board had broad powers to establish and enforce uniform educational standards for vocational education. The board also had power over the distribution of funds, and any non-compliant legislature or governor would have fund distribution removed.[6]

This established the modern regime of federal fund usage against the states, and the template that would be used again and again for future national initiatives.

See also