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In the News

Free period products in Californian schools

Mike McCartney

11th October 2021

A good example of the advantages of federalism

One of my favourite quotes in American politics is the description of states as policy laboratories by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in the early 1930s. What he meant was that the federal system allowed states to develop new policy ideas, without the danger of the policy change having an adverse effect on the whole of the US.

This is, for me, one of the key advantages transferring power to lower levels of government. It works when considering the advantages of devolved systems of government and there is a comparative element when looking at the advantages of the post 1997 constitutional settlement in the UK, and a shift towards a system of quai-federalism.

In terms of the advantages of the federal system in the US, there are loads of sites out there that cover the pros and cons of the system. They often contain fascinating nuggets of information that can be woven into essays. From this one, for example, I discovered that in Arizona it is illegal for a donkey to sleep in a bath! See: 15 Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism – ConnectUS (

These summary arguments are drawn from the tutor2u website:

Pros and Cons of Federalism


  • Permits diversity
  • Pluralistic
  • Increased protection of individual rights
  • States can become policy labs e.g. pollution permits in California
  • Well suited to a geographically large nation


  • Can hide economic and social inequalities
  • Frustrates the national will, making solutions to problems harder
  • Constant source of conflict between the states and the Federal Government
  • Overly bureaucratic, therefore creating a costly system that is resistant to change

So what has just happened in California?

According to the Washington Post:

"Period products will be provided free in public schools across California starting next school year as required by new legislation signed into law on Friday.

Public schools with students in grades six to 12, community colleges and the California State University System — a network of 23 campuses with more than 485,00 students — will be required to provide free period products in restrooms starting in the 2022-2023 academic year.

The legislation, named the Menstrual Equity for All Act, was introduced by Cristina Garcia (D), a member of California’s State Assembly, and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)."

Source: California to require free pads and tampons in public schools - The Washington Post

CNN add:

"The law also requires California State University -- a system of 23 campuses around the state -- and each community college district to stock an adequate supply of free menstrual products in at least one designated and accessible central location on Campus. It encourages the Regents of the University of California and private institutions in the state to take similar steps."

They go on to add, by the way, if more support were needed in arguing the case for devolution:

"Last year, Scotland became the first country to make tampons and pads available for free."

Source: California requiring free menstrual products at public schools - CNN

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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