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Describe the responsibilities of government at the federal, state, and local levels (e.g., protection of individual rights and the provision of services such as law enforcement and the building and funding of schools).

Topics on the Page

A. Protection of Individual rights

B. Provision of law enforcement, emergency services (i.e. fire department), funding/building of educational institutions

C. Organizing infrastructure, zoning regulations, water, licensed professional requirements/standards

Focus Question: What are the responsibilities of federal, state and local governments?

Protection of Individual Rights

After the election of 1789, an immediate issue that the new Congress took up was how to modify the Constitution. States such as Massachusetts and Virginia had all ultimately supported the Constitution, however they expected explicit protections for individual rights. This being said, the first Congress amended the Constitution by adding the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments of the Constitution and stand as a symbol of American ideals of liberty, limited government and the rule of law.

Multimedia.pngWatch this video for an overview of how American Government was formed, and how federal, state, and local levels operate.

Click here for an understanding of the events leading up to the creation of the Bill of Rights

Federal Government

Brief synopsis from Helium.Com's US Politics section by Frankie Buda "The American government is a federal one, which means that authority and jurisdiction are divided among national, state, and local governments. This division and decentralization causes the system to be often unwieldy, slow-moving, and redundant. However, the federal system's value lies in the fact that in such a large and diverse nation, local governing bodies can represent this diversity."

Government in America is constructed in such a way that state laws may differ depending on local circumstance consider the speed limits on local roads, which are often different from state to state. Smaller subdivisions are also flexible enough to respond to some unique situation or element of their population. For example, in heavily Amish areas of Pennsylvania, local school districts have allowed the Amish to establish their own elementary schools. Although these institutions are funded solely by private money, unlike other private schools they violate various state laws regarding such things as teacher certification, curriculum, and length of the school year.

Law Enforcement
See Special Topic page on The FBI in American Politics

State and Local Government

Law enforcement is one of the functions of local governments
Law enforcement is one of the functions of local governments

In 2002 the United States had 50 states, 3,034 counties, and 19,429 municipal and 16,504 township governments (from Helium.Com's US Politics section by Frankie Buda)

Follow this link for a clickable map of the United States.

State and local governments exercise important functions in the United States. They plan and pay for most roads, run public schools, provide water, organize police and fire services, establish zoning regulations, license professions, and arrange elections for their citizens. These are functions that directly affect Americans every day and in every part of their lives.

State and local governments have never been totally separate political entities, because they cooperate in services ranging from welfare to transportation, and because they serve the same residents. Nonetheless, the state has the final decision over local functions. While states are part of the larger entity of a federal system, local governments are creatures of the state. The state government can abolish a local government, merge it with other entities, or give it additional authority. Local authority comes from specific state constitutional provisions or from acts of the state legislatures."

Click here for a breakdown and differences between federal, state and local governments. This link adds even more information of the differences between the levels of government.

external image Seal_of_Kentucky.svg


Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky are called Commonwealths.

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 3.39.33 PM.pngWhy is Massachusetts a Commonwealth?

Education and School Funding

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How School Funding Works in Massachusetts

How Progressive Is School Funding in the United States? Brookings (June 15, 2017)

The States That Spend the Most (and the Least) In One MapThe Washington Post (June 2, 2015)

Clashes between local, state and federal governments

This source reveals 10 U.S. Supreme Court Cases that state and local governments conflicted with the Federal government.

See the article on Trump's border wall:
State, feds clash in court over Trump's border wall

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.27.26 AM.pngYouTube video from Northwestern professors regarding the conflicts between Federal and State governments during Trump's presidency.
Clashes of Federal and Local Government

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 2.17.29 PM.pngResearch paper by a law student regarding marriage equality, Georgetown University Law Center
Gay is Good:The Moral Case for Marriage Equality and More

Furthermore, this article talks about marriage equality, and if it should be considered a federal issue or a state issue. This issue has effected many LGBT people and their right to marry.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.30.24 PM.pngLesson Plan

Here is a lesson plan which allows students to compare different groups of people such as teachers and principles, and how they comes together to make the school work successfully, similarly to how the president, and branches of government have to work together in order to be successful.