School systems are run on many levels. Most prominent is the Board of Education. This entity oversees the overall school system of a district. Each state has its own Board of Education with authority over local boards and the federal Department of Education has the ultimate jurisdiction. They are responsible for policy-level decisions that affect all schools, teachers and the nation as a whole.
As the official policy maker for school districts, the Boards of Education in the towns and states play a collective role in America’s future. These Boards separate education policies from local and federal politics, with the primary goal of furthering the education prospects of children. It is the vehicle by which the United States fulfills the constitutionally mandated right to an education. Each Board has its own vision for improving education and ensuring equal opportunities in education for all classes of citizenry. They partner with the community so that the general public can voice its opinion with respect to education policy. In essence, these Boards dictate what students should learn and what teachers should teach.
A Board of Education is enacted through legislation and therefore subject to state and local laws in its management. Other authorities may also hold sway over how the Boards are run. For this reason, each Board will have its own methodology in running board meetings, gathering public comment and budgeting funds. In general, state laws give these Boards the power to review and adopt regulations, establish standards, research and amend curriculum and make recommendations for improvements. The Board is responsible for approving new districts and reallocating existing ones.
The Board of Education is comprised of school district residents who are elected by the community or appointed by representatives. The primary role of the board is to be a liaison between the schools and the community. Public opinion holds strong sway with the Board, but not all Boards allow public meetings. Some allot a short period for public comment while others allow meetings to be open, except during the executive session. An executive session is the portion of a Board meeting in which internal matters or public safety issues are discussed.
The Superintendent of Schools is typically selected by the Board of Education. This individual serves as chief executive officer for a district. The primary role of the Superintendent is to administer the policies the Board of Education adopts and to execute internal decisions connected with Board operations. This executive will also administer daily operations and advise the board in its policies, submitting recommendations. On the state and federal levels, this role is filled by the Secretary of Education.
Local school Superintendents must manage everything from school cleanliness, to cafeteria menus. Daily budgetary concerns such as custodial services, purchasing and sports programs must be managed. They are faced with finding ways to cut expenses by improving bus routes. In many cases, schools have begun asking families to pick up the tab for bus transportation outside a certain range of the school.
On the state level, the Secretary of Education coordinates and integrates the policies and standards set by the state for all schools. This can include employment training programs and health and human services. The Federal Education Secretary’s role is similar but administers funding needed by state Boards of Education and sets federal standards for education quality.
The Board of Education is responsible for approving curriculum for schools. The Board will often research new curriculums and the effectiveness of current curriculum to assess if changes are warranted. State Boards of Education will have separate councils dealing with elementary education and higher education. These boards develop curriculum, standards and budgets allocations for local schools in each state.
The responsibilities of the Board of Education are governed by local and state laws. However, there are some duties that all Boards hold in common. These Boards are expected to create policies for running each school district. They will determine and work towards each districts educational standards and goals. Boards are expected to develop and revise curricula as needed and research the effectiveness of programs they have put in place.
Internally, the Board of Education is responsible for recruiting, and managing the superintendent. The Board will also be responsible for the hiring, firing and management of school employees, including teachers. As such, the Board must set minimum standards for teachers. When necessary, the Board will negotiate with teachers unions as well. All this must be done within the budget that the Board of Education sets for the district.
Obligations to Society
The foremost obligation the Board of Education has for society is to provide the right to an education to all Americans. In filling this role, the board is expected to communicate the public’s opinions, views and desires to the schools. This requires that Boards have a level of independence from the influence of politics, so that the best interests of children are always kept in the forefront. State Boards are expected to give local Boards the freedom to move in the directions the community sees as best.
Society expects the Board of Education to help students achieve more by providing better teachers and curriculum. The methods and policies adopted by these Boards will determine the readiness of our high school graduates to enter the work force and contribute to the overall economy.
A Delicate Balance
State Boards of Education face special challenges in supporting struggling school systems. They must often allocate more resources to poorer communities, making it difficult to provide “equal” opportunities to all. Organizing the allocation of funds is a major undertaking, requiring a great deal of forethought.
Boards of Education have been faced with ever-growing budget cuts as the economy weakens, presenting greater challenges to run schools more efficiently. Maintaining high standards on a low budget is no easy task.
The various financial levels in differing communities also presents a challenge. To set the same standard for all districts is difficult when poorer communities will naturally have more difficulty meeting those standards.