Understanding School Board Politics: Balancing Public Voice and Professional Power

Authored by: Patricia A. L. Ehrensal , Patricia F. First

Handbook of Education Politics and Policy

Print publication date:  June  2008
Online publication date:  June  2008

Print ISBN: 9780805861112
eBook ISBN: 9780203887875
Adobe ISBN: 9781135595586

10.4324/9780203887875.ch5

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Abstract

The role of the school board in the governance of education is both contested and misunderstood. From a legal perspective, school boards are created by the state for the sole purpose of administering a public school district, and thus have only that authority vested by state legislatures (Alexander & Alexander, 2005; Briffault, 2005). Ryan (2004) emphasizes, that local school boards have “little to no constitutional authority or responsibility over education” (p. 43). Given this legal construction, the role of the school board is to ensure that state policies are carried out at the local level. However, from an organizational perspective, boards are one level in multiple levels of school governance. What happens in schools can be traced for causation and implementation across and up and down the levels. Additionally, most school boards are locally elected bodies, which complicates their role. And by many citizens they are seen as the ideal in democratic governance, a difficult image to maintain (First, 2001).

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