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Federalism and Equalizing Public Policy

The diversity of state laws and procedures creates situations that may seem unfair to many citizens. For example, felony conviction rates can lead to different prison sentences in various states. In addition, some state legislatures invest more in public education than others.

I always found the United States to be an intriguing country due to the distinct identities each state has, ranging from a diverse spectrum of general needs, beliefs, and mindsets. I believe this to be one of the fundamental reasons why it is hard to describe an overall “American” identity due to this vast spectrum of identities across the nation. With that in mind, the concept of federalism in terms of cooperative federalism is one of the greatest aspect this country holds. Uniformity in policy among the states is necessary to a certain degree such as federal regulations for food, agriculture, safety, or even certain aspects of education; however, the particular needs of each state is greatly different from one another. For example, I went to high school in the state of Tennessee and living in a rural area meant that certain driving permits were allowed as young as the age of 14 due to the rural area students living on ranches or farms virtually impossible for the public transportation buses to reach in time for the first school bell with a proper bus route. On the other hand, there are certain dynamics within the country that should require greater uniformity in policy among the states such as education. If each state has it’s own education curriculum set up and are all even slightly different from each other, how are higher education officials or colleges supposed to compare students to one another? Or better yet, how are tests such as the ACT or SAT supposed to be taken by students that were all taught different curriculums to different extents. While I personally am not a proponent of the No Child Left Behind movement (an example mentioned in the interview with Ezra Klein), I believe this could be a step in the right direction for equalizing education, even if there is much work to be done. While states certainly deserve legislation that is relevant to their area’s needs, there also needs to be a balance with certain standards for institutions such as public schools, prisons, transportation, etc. that can cross state lines.