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 equivalent.

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.

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.


The American board of education traces its origins back to 1647, with the formation of the first American public school system. The Massachusetts Bay Colony mandated that every town establish a public school within its jurisdiction. Committees sprang up to run the institutions, and in the 1820s the state of Massachusetts required such committees to be independent of local governments, establishing the current model for the autonomous school districts that exist throughout the United States.

The United States Constitution reserved educational authority in the hands of the states pursuant to the Tenth Amendment, and most states have passed such authority to local school boards. For over a century, local boards were solely responsible for public education funding, standards, instruction, and results, which to a certain extent remains true today.

At their height in the 1930s there were as many as 127,500 boards. Some sparsely populated states had more school board members than teachers and for much of their history, such boards presided over school systems serving agrarian and industrial economies.[1]'

The Role of Local School Boards[edit]

The role of the local school board is vital to the U.S. public education system. “Local school boards have been an integral feature of the U.S. public education system for nearly 100 years, and they are widely regarded as the principal democratic body capable of representing citizens in local education decisions”[2].Implementing public education policy and school system administration is just some of the many roles that the local school board plays. By state legislative enactment, school boards are delegated power and authority to develop policies, rules, and regulations to control the operation of the schools, including system organization, school site location, school finance, equipment purchase, staffing, attendance, curriculum, extracurricular activities, and other functions essential to the day-to-day operation of schools within the district's boundaries. Boards may also be authorized by the state legislature to levy taxes, invest resources, initiate eminent domain proceedings, acquire land, and assume bonded indebtedness. Although the powers and duties of the local board vary by state jurisdiction, all fifty states except Hawaii have a two-tiered governance structure and provide for local school districts governed by an elected or appointed board.[2] Though local school boards may have differences because of state constitutions, they are vital to their districts as they have a lot of authority over numerous educational policies, budgets, and locations. Some even have power over the state’s taxes and investments. Sources of authority that influence the duties and responsibilities of the local school board include state and federal constitutions, legislative enactments, rules and regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Education and the state board of education, and legal interpretations by judges, attorneys general, and administrative agencies. A school board functions locally, within the confines of the state's delegation of power and the geographical boundaries of the district, but is a legal agency of the state and thus derives its power from the state's constitution, laws, and judicial decisions. School boards are corporate bodies created for the purpose of implementing state legislative policy concerning public schools and locally administering the state's system of public education. Board members are state officers who act under color of state law when conducting the official business of the state. The exercise of the local board's authority must be predicated upon an express or implied delegation of authority from the legislature and must meet a test of reasonableness that avoids a judicial presumption of arbitrary or capricious action.[2] In short, the school board is a state legal entity that must abide by the state's constitution, statutes, and judicial rulings before it can make any of its own decisions pertaining to educational policies and regulations.

The Role of the State Government[edit]

Since there is no mention of education in the U.S. Constitution, all authority over education purposes goes to the states. This is because of the tenth amendment in the U.S. Constitution. According to this amendment, any power that the federal government is not delegated goes to the states instead. The federal government was not involved with educational policies until the 1960s and has historically played a minor role[3].As the federal government is limited on what it can do because of this amendment, it still “plays a role in evaluating each school district by administering the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP), also known as the Nation's Report Card”[3].The federal government also publishes recommended teaching strategies as well for all the states to follow. While you do not have to follow along to these recommendations, you do run the risk of not acquiring funding if you choose to opt out [3].A state has more power over the educational policies for public schools over the federal government. This is because “the U.S. Constitution contains no mention of education, limiting the federal governments’ powers either expressly stated or implied in the Constitution”[2].While the states are primarily responsible for the maintenance and operation of public schools, they are also heavily involved in the establishment, selection, and regulation of curriculum, teaching methods, and instructional materials in their schools. Because of this, various schools have contrasting standards and policies, resulting in a different quality of education offered. State governments also have the authority to establish, select, and regulate curriculum, or they can designate officials. They also have mandatory requirements set for students to graduate. All state rules and regulations for course must be followed. Local school districts can implement course programs and activities that go beyond those required by state statute[3].While they must follow protocol for courses that are mandated by the state, some local school districts are able to add extracurriculars that are not mandated.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Toch, Thomas (2011). "Who Rules?". Wilson Quarterly. 35 (4): 43–47. ISSN 0363-3276.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Roles of Federal and State Governments in Education". Findlaw. Retrieved 2021-09-28.