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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 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.'
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". Implementing public education policy and school system administration is just one 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 50 states except Hawaii have a two-tiered governance structure and provide for local school districts governed by an elected or appointed board. 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. School boards work alongside and usually hire superintendents. 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. 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.
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, which reads as follows.
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
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. 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 (NAEP), also known as the Nation's Report Card". The federal government also publishes recommended teaching strategies as well for all the states to follow. While you do not have to follow these recommendations, you do run the risk of not acquiring funding if you choose to opt out. 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". 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. 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.
On September 29, 2021, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) declared in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland that, "America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat." This was as a result of the growing frustration of parents towards mask mandates and an increase in the alleged teaching of "critical race theory" (a graduate-level course taught to law and sociology students), in the curriculum of public schools. In response, Merrick Garland stated that the FBI would utilize the law enforcement response to what Garland called "a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff." As a result of the initial letter from the NSBA and the response letter of Merrick Garland, nearly half of the state school board associations have terminated their membership with the NSBA. Since the release of Garland's letter, an undetermined number of parents and members of the public have been arrested for charges such as "criminal trespass" and "intimidation" with the charges generally dropped thereafter.