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Education Law

Getting Your Bearings:Federal and State Primary Sources

Education Law can be difficult to research at times because there are federal and state laws, regulations, cases, and administrative decisions that can determine a particular legal issue.  Federal law, whether statutes or regulations passed by the Department of Education, often directs the States to comply with certain requirements.  The means of compliance, though, may be left up to the States, or it may be ambiguous whether the federal law requires certain standards.  If you are interested in a specific state, it is best to research both that state's applicable laws and the federal laws.

Key Federal Education Related Acts

Key Federal Education Related Acts

For those interested in significant education related acts, you can take a look at the statutes and the legislative histories for:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), P.L. 91-230, codified as amended at 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq.  The pivotal special education law legislation that helped ensure children with special needs would receive an education that would account for their disabilities. 

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, P.L. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2001), majority codified in Chapter 70 of Title 20, 20 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq.  This act created additional standards for secondary education to include: testing and teacher/school accountability. 

Post 9/11 GI Bill Education Assistant Act, P.L. 110-252, codified in 33 U.S.C. §§ 3301, 3311-3324.  This legislation revamped veteran's education benefits and ensured that veterans would have enough financial support to pursue a college education.

Statutes and Regulations

Federal Statutes and Regulations


At the law library, you have access to the official United States Code and Annotated Codes, as well as the Code of Federal Regulation in print and online. 


Resource Call Number Location Description Link
United States Code (U.S.C.) KF 62 1994.A2 Law [non-circulating] Majority of education statutes are codified in Title 20 (Education). U.S.C.
United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) KF62 .W4 Law [non-circulating] West's annotated version can provide links to cases interpreting the education code. U.S.C.A. (LAW)
United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) KF62 1972 .L38 Law [non-circulating] LexisNexis's annotated version of the code. U.S.C.S. (LAW)
Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) KF 70.A2 Law [non-circulating] Majority of education regulations are in Title 34 (education). C.F.R.


Research tip: start your research with secondary sources and case law.  This research will direct you to the specific code section, which could otherwise be difficult to find.  The majority of education statutes may be in Title 20 of the U.S.C., but relevant education topics are found in various parts of the code.  For example, special education laws are primarily found in Title 20, but also are located in 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-718 (Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and in 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)).  If you just want to research the code, some education topics have books that compile the relevant statute and regulations:

  • Special Education Law : Statutes and Regulations : Document Supplement / Mark C. Weber et al. (editors) (3 ed. 2010)- Law, call number: KF4209.3 .A32 2010, targeted audience: legally trained.  Why use a topic specific code compilation?  You get quick access to the relevant statutes and regulations, and are not skimming through the various parts of the code to find a relevant section. 


State Statutes and Regulations

The College of Law Library has copies of the state statutes.  These books are located on the second floor of the law library (north section).  For quick access to state codes check out the Education Commision of States Statutes and Administrative Codes page, which has compiled links to online state statutes and administrative codes.   While states provide online copies of the statutes and administrative codes, these are unofficial sources, which are not cited as the official source.  

You have a statute, now what?

You might be interested in finding out more about a statute's history.  Maybe you want to know what happened during a Senate floor debate or you want to know if there was any changes to the bill when it was in a committee.  Here, researching a statute's legislative history can help you learn more about the conditions that surround the enactment of the bill. 

Federal Legislation

Federal legislative history has several research sources that are dedicated to legislative history, as well as Congressional documents and reports. 

State Legislation

Similar research strategies to federal legislative history can be used for resarching state legsilative history; for instance, you would generally find the state statute's public law number and proceed to look at sources for whether a legislative report provides any additional details about the statute's history. For recent legislation, States are increasingly putting more resources online.  Check out the links to the state webpages

Case Law

Education related cases appear in federal and state reporters.  You can search case law databases with keywords and boolean operators.  There is also a Reporter set that collects all the cases involving education law regardless of jurisdiction.  This Reporter is only available on Westlaw.

Federal Administrative Decisions

FEDERAL ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS- Congress has granted the Department of Education’s Secretary the authority to adjudicate certain education legal issues.  A Secretary's decision constitutes a final agency decision, and is generally the last administrative adjudicatory act before being appealed to federal court.  You may end up researching these cases out of interest in the type of disputes heard, or are researching a federal case's procedural history.

The Department of Education also has decisions issues by the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA).  This office has divided education legal issues amongst four adjudicatory units: