Understanding Your School Board
From the Missouri School Board Association
Who is responsible for public education in Missouri?
The commissioner of education, the State Board of Education, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guide and monitor public education in Missouri. The State Board of Education provides leadership and state level administration, and the commissioner and DESE staff work with the Board to implement education policy. Missouri has delegated much of the responsibility for education to the local board of education. Locally elected boards of education are political subdivisions carrying out a state function. Local school boards have significant latitude in governing the schools.
What is the primary function of the board of education and its members?
School board members are guardians of the public trust and, through the policies they make, are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of local public education. The board serves as the advocate for educational excellence for the community's youth and puts those interest first. The policies school boards make dictate the standards and philosophy by which schools are run and the criteria used to judge whether they are being run well.
This responsibility often entails difficult choices, self-sacrifice and exposure to public criticism. However, it also brings a great deal of personal satisfaction in sharing with parents, staff and students their academic successes. This crucial responsibility and the closeness of board members to the voters make the local board of education the purest example of democracy our society presents.
What are the key roles and responsibilities of a school board?
The key roles and responsibilities of a school board are to:
- Hire and evaluate the superintendent and delegate all administrative responsibilities.
- Approve the school district's budget.
- Establish goals and evaluate outcomes.
- Adopt and evaluate policies.
- Connect with the community.
- Assure school district performance.
How do boards of education make decisions?
A board of education is a governmental body, so it can take action only by a majority vote at a legally called public meeting. The individual board member's major responsibility is to study, evaluate, and, after due consideration, vote in the best interest of all students at such a meeting. A board member who attempts-without authorization- to speak for the whole board, direct members of staff, or make other individual decisions is exceeding his or her authority.
Who is eligible to serve as a school board member?
To be eligible for election, a local school board candidate must be:
- a citizen of the United States.
- a resident taxpayer of the district.
- a resident of the state for 1 year preceding election of appointment
- at least 24 years of age
- Note: Candidates for school boards in the city of St. Louis are subject to special provisions.
Is there special training involved in being a school board member?
As mandated by the Outstanding Schools Act, known as Senate Bill 380 and by the State Board of Education rule, newly elected or appointed school board members are required to participate in training activities through the Missouri School Boards Association. These courses will build on the skills and knowledge necessary for the school board member to ensure a quality education for the children of the district.
When are school board members elected?
School board elections are held the first Tuesday in April.
Can citizens attend school board meetings?
Boards of Education must meet in compliance with the Open Meetings Act and make public records available pursuant to the law. Citizens are welcomed at all school board meetings, except in a few legally specified circumstances calling for closed meetings.
Can citizens participate in board of education meetings?
Many boards of education allow citizen participation and have policies concerning how and when citizens contribute their input. Policies on public comment vary from district to district.
Are local boards of education needed?
The U.S. Supreme Court has said education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Our system of local school districts and boards of education epitomizes representative and participatory government--citizens elected from their community making decisions about educational programs based on community needs, values and expectations. Local boards of education also allow for community participation in that decision-making process. Boards of Education not only represent the public, but also translate the needs of students into policies, plans and goals that will be supported by the community.