The Administration of Federal Grants to States

By V. O. Key Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE ROLE OF ASSOCIATIONS AND CONFERENCES

THE PORTRAYAL of the formal operations of federal-aid administration--the approval of plans, inspections, audits, reports--leaves unmentioned a kind of informal relationship which has an important influence in determining the nature of federal-state relations. In practically all the aided functions there is considerable reliance on associations and conferences of state officials for a variety of purposes. These organizations may function as extremely effective pressure groups, frequently supporting the legislative program of the federal administrative agency before Congress. They may serve as devices for consultation concerning federal administrative policies and practices. They may act as channels for the communication of the wishes of the states to Washington; the federal rules which have run the gauntlet of the group may possess a greater moral authority than would otherwise be the case. They may foster schemes to coordinate the activities of different states and to correlate direct federal services with related state functions.

The passage of federal-aid legislation creates a community of interests among the beneficiaries of the act in the states, and this uniformly leads to the development, or to the strengthening, of associations of the state officials concerned. These organizations are not of equal importance, nor are they of similar composition. In one category of associations, the responsible state administrators are the constituent members, or at least dominate the activities, of the organization. First among this group is the Association of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. Founded in 1887 as the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations, it consists of the institutions receiving the benefits of the Morrill Acts and of the legislation providing grants for agricultural research and for agricultural and home-economics extension. Probably because of the long tenure of the college administrators, and also owing to the sense of independence of colleges in contrast with ordinary administrative departments, this association is

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