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