State Governance of Education

State Governance of Education

Citizen control over public education through the mechanism of governing boards is an enduring American tradition that is essential in making public education successful and that gives our decentralized educational system much of its vitality, diversity, and responsiveness. State board members—as citizen advocates of public education, as liaisons between educators and others involved in education policy, as consensus builders, and as policymakers—strengthen this tradition.

The ever-changing composition of state boards allows opinions of the public to be considered. Removing or weakening state boards in favor of control from governors or legislative committees is detrimental in a society committed to democratic principles and the need for strong involvement of citizens in education decision making. Sustaining the unique role of state boards of education is the best way to meet public concerns regarding education.

While respecting differences in states’ educational governance structures, NASBE supports these governance principles:

A. State Responsibility for Education

B. State Board Responsibility

C. State Board Structure

D. State Board Cooperation with Other Organizations and Agencies

E. Diversity in Educational Leadership

F. Student Involvement in Education Decisionmaking

G. Professional Development for State Board Members

H. Policy Review Cycles

A. State Responsibility for Education

The United States Constitution reserves to citizens of the states primary responsibility for the governance of education (Tenth Amendment). To carry out their responsibility, states have developed structures to plan, provide, and oversee the delivery of instructional services to children through state boards charged with the “general supervision” of public schools.

Throughout the history of this country, the Congress has continued to recognize the preeminent role of the states in education even while targeting federal education funds for national priorities. NASBE believes that public education is the most fundamental obligation of state government and that decisions about educational governance structures should be left to individual states.

B. State Board Responsibility

Major policy and oversight responsibility is placed in constitutionally or statutorily created state boards, composed primarily of lay citizens. State boards have the primary responsibility for governing education, including vocational education, for setting educational policy, goals and priorities based on the best available information and research, and for continuously evaluating educational progress. (1997) NASBE adheres to the following general principles regarding state boards:

  1. Every effort should be made to ensure that the full diversity of the population is represented on citizen boards.
  2. While citizens who serve on state boards of education may be chosen because they are from a specific region, or constituency, they should then represent all the students in the state.
  3. The charge to state boards is setting the long-term vision and direction that will make education meaningful for all students.
  4. While the state role of state board members is often clearly defined by state constitutions or statutes, all state board members, regardless of how chosen, need to understand and respond to national issues that have an impact on education in their states.

 C. State Board Structure

The educationally effective governing structure for education within a state includes a state board of education that determines general policy, with the policies administered by a chief state school officer who is hired and evaluated by the board. (1996)

D. State Board Cooperation with Other Organizations and Agencies

  1. State board members should lead education efforts and include governors, legislators, chief state school officers, local school boards, parents, business leaders, and other members of the education community in developing and providing coherent, coordinated, thorough and efficient educational programs for all children. (1997) In order to assist state boards in this mission, NASBE should maintain ongoing communication and cooperation with the representative organizations of these groups.
  2. In order to achieve systemic education reform and fulfill individual students’ needs at every level, state boards of education and postsecondary boards, which may include state boards of higher education, community college boards and others, should develop mutually supportive structures to ensure effective articulation of academic standards and assessments, enrollment eligibility requirements, preparation and development of education professionals, and other policies that have implications for the state’s entire education system. (1997)
  3. State boards should actively work with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to ensure that state-approved innovations and variations in education curricula, instructional methods, programs, and grading practices are accommodated in the determination of eligibility requirements for participation in postsecondary athletic activities and athletic scholarships. (1997)
  4. State boards and chief state school officers have common concerns that are addressed by the organizations that represent them. Therefore, state boards are encouraged to schedule NASBE and chief state school officer issues for regular consideration at state board meetings.
  5. The mutual concerns of state boards of education and local school boards necessitates ongoing, substantive communication and cooperation among the state board of education, local school boards, the state school boards’ association, and the state department of education. As part of this effort, state boards should provide for local board member involvement on task forces, advisory councils, and other established bodies. At the national level, NASBE pledges itself to continuing communication and cooperation with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) around mutual concerns of education policy and improvement. (1999)

E. Diversity in Educational Leadership

State boards should take an active role in assuring broad cultural, ethnic, and gender representation in the state department of education, and on all state task forces, commissions, advisory boards, adoption committees, and working groups.

F. Student Involvement in Education Decisionmaking

Student involvement in education decision-making provides students with an increased understanding of the roles and responsibilities of policymakers and administrators, gives students an increased stake in their own education, and provides adults with a fresh perspective on the education system. Therefore, state boards of education should provide opportunities for meaningful student involvement in state education policymaking and should encourage school districts and school councils to provide similar opportunities for students at the local level. (1996, 1998)

G. Professional Development for State Board Members

State boards should devote attention and resources to the professional development of their members. This should include initial orientation and ongoing development to better understand their roles and responsibilities, to improve boardsmanship skills, and to gain greater understanding of specific education issues. (1996)

H. Policy Review Cycles

State boards of education should make provisions to regularly review major policies. In addition, an evaluation process should be built into all decisions. (1996)

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