Functioning as the citizens’ voice in state education, state boards of education serve as an unbiased broker for education decision making, focusing on the big picture, articulating the long-term vision and needs of public education, and making policy based on the best interests of the public and the young people of America.
State board members are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender; operate within diverse governance models and varied terms of office; are engaged in their communities; and are committed to education. All are dedicated citizen leaders, often serving in a volunteer capacity, and they hold their board service to be of utmost importance.
“State boards of education are among the last bastions of civil discourse in the country. By and large, board members engage in complex discussions about policy without a lot of partisan drama.” – NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull
Governance and Authority
State boards of education are different in every state and have diverse policy authority. Some are created by the state constitution and others by statute. Some of their members are elected; some are appointed. In many states, it is the state board who selects the state education chief. In others, it is the governor. In 45 states, the state board adopts learning standards that all students are expected to achieve. In 31 states, state boards have primary authority over state summative assessments. In addition, most SBEs have the following authority:
- establishing high school graduation requirements;
- determining qualifications for professional education personnel;
- establishing state accountability and assessment programs; and
- establishing standards for accreditation of local school districts and preparation programs for teachers and administrators.
Regardless of their level of authority, all boards and board members have three important powers: (1) authority for adopting and revising policies that promote educational excellence and equity, (2) convening experts and stakeholders to serve as a bridge between policymakers and citizens, and (3) the power to raise questions as the citizens’ voice in education. State boards leverage these combined powers to act boldly with and for students, educators, and families.
Learn more about state board governance structures and various state board authorities in A Look at State Education Governance.