From the left, “public education” is believed to be a necessary cornerstone of democracy. Thomas Jefferson emphasized the importance of an educated citizenry and rational deliberation as key democratic institutions. The right points out that Jefferson’s proposal for a “public education” system in Virginia was based on local private schools in which poor children were given scholarships by the community - an approach similar to school vouchers today. Thus Jefferson’s original vision of “public education” was radically community controlled.
From the perspective of the right, the state-controlled education system imported to Massachusetts from Prussia in the 19th century is a betrayal of the community-vision of public education provided by Jefferson. Thus the control of local education through the Federal Department of Education is an exceptional travesty of local control of education and many libertarians and conservatives have proposed eliminating the Department of Education.