Board of education

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A Meeting of the School Trustees by Robert Harris

A board of education, school committee or school board is the board of directors or board of trustees of a school, local school district or an equivalent institution.[1][2][3]

The elected council determines the educational policy in a small regional area, such as a city, county, state, or province. Frequently, a board of directors power with a larger institution, such as a higher government's department of education. The name of such board is also often used to refer to the school system under such board's control.[4]

The government department that administered education in the United Kingdom before the foundation of the Ministry of education was formerly called the Board of education.

Boards of education serve as crucial pillars in the architecture of educational systems worldwide, shaping policies, guiding institutions, and influencing the future of generations. This essay embarks on a journey through the history of boards of education, exploring their evolution, functions, and the nuanced ways they operate across diverse school systems and nations.[5]


The roots of school boards can be traced back to the 19th century when the expansion of formal education systems necessitated organized oversight.[6][7] The establishment of local and regional boards emerged as a response to the growing complexities of educational administration. In the United States, for instance, the concept gained prominence in the mid-1800s, reflecting a commitment to providing accessible and quality education. These early boards were often community-driven, reflecting the values and priorities of the local populace.

As educational systems evolved, so did the roles and structures of boards of education. The 20th century witnessed the refinement of their functions, with an increasing emphasis on standardized curricula, teacher accreditation, and equitable resource distribution. In other parts of the world, such as Europe and Asia, variations in the historical development of boards of education reflect unique cultural, social, and political contexts.


School boards are multifaceted in the way that they function, encompassing policy formulation, resource allocation, oversight of educational institutions, and representation of community interests.[8] One primary function is the establishment and review of educational policies that guide curriculum development, assessment strategies, and teaching methodologies. These policies serve as the framework within which schools operate, shaping the educational experiences of students.

Resource allocation is another critical aspect of a Board's role. Boards of education are responsible for approving budgets, determining funding priorities, and ensuring that financial resources are distributed equitably among schools.[9] This function is central to addressing issues of educational equity, ensuring that all students have access to essential resources regardless of their socio-economic background.

Oversight of educational institutions involves the hiring and evaluation of school administrators, addressing concerns related to teacher performance, and monitoring the overall effectiveness of the educational system. Boards act as a bridge between the community and the schools, representing the interests and values of the constituents they serve.[10]


The structure and functionality of boards of education vary significantly across nations and even within different regions of a country. In the United States, for example, each state operates its own educational system, and the governance structure of school boards can differ widely. Some states have elected school boards, while others may have appointed boards or a combination of both.[11] Additionally, there are variations in the powers bestowed upon these boards, ranging from significant decision-making authority to advisory roles.

In contrast, countries like Finland have a more centralized educational system with less emphasis on local school boards.[12][13] The national education agency plays a more direct role in setting policies, developing curricula, and ensuring consistency across the country. The Finnish approach reflects a different cultural and administrative philosophy, where trust in educators and a focus on professional development are central tenets.

In Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, school boards may exist at the local level, but their functions and powers are often influenced by national policies. The emphasis on a strong central government role in education reflects the cultural values and historical contexts of these nations.


Boards of education face numerous challenges in their efforts to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of education.[14] One common challenge is the balancing act between local autonomy and the need for standardized practices.[15] Striking the right balance ensures that educational policies align with the unique needs of communities while maintaining a level of consistency in educational standards.

Globalization and technological advancements bring forth new challenges and opportunities. School boards must grapple with issues related to digital literacy, the integration of technology in the classroom, and preparing students for a rapidly changing global landscape. The role of boards is expanding beyond traditional functions as they navigate the complexities of the digital age.[16]

Innovations in educational governance also emerge as boards adapt to contemporary challenges. Some educational systems experiment with participatory models, involving parents, teachers, and community members in decision-making processes. This collaborative approach aims to create a sense of shared responsibility and foster a deeper connection between the community and the educational system.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "School board elections guide |". Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  2. ^ XQ, Team (2023-05-13). "So, What Does a School Board Do, Anyway?". XQ. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  3. ^ "What does a school board member do? | Get On Board Ohio". Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  4. ^ "What does a school board do? Why are Pueblo board elections important?". Pueblo Chieftain. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  5. ^ Body, Courtney N. (2022-11-08). "School Board Decisions Are Vital to Our Children's Future". Mississippi Free Press. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  6. ^ "School Boards | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  7. ^ "The Historic and Political Role of the School Board" (PDF).
  8. ^ "You Asked, We Answered: How Do N.H. School Boards Work?". New Hampshire Public Radio. 2020-01-10. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  9. ^ LisaL (2022-01-19). "What does a school board do?". We Go Public. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  10. ^ "Atlanta has school board elections this year. Here's what you should know about them". Atlanta Magazine. 2021-10-19. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  11. ^ "Everything You Need to Know About School Trustees". The Local. 2022-10-06. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  12. ^ Hancock, LynNell. "Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  13. ^ Risku, Mika; Kanervio, Pekka; Pulkkinen, Seppo (January 1, 2014). "School Boards in Finland". Educational Governance Research: 31–48.
  14. ^ "Structure of school boards causes conflict, professor says". CBC News. October 19, 2016.
  15. ^ epstudios (2016-11-30). "What does a school board trustee do anyway?". The Nelson Daily. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  16. ^ "School Board Trustees: What Do They Do for a Public School District?". Governing. 2022-11-30. Retrieved 2023-12-03.