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At the state level, the key components of the K-12 public education governance system are governors, legislators, state boards of education, chief state school officers and state education agencies. This issue site focuses on state boards of education, chief state school officers and state education agencies - the three of which are primarily responsible for providing elementary and secondary education to school-age children, although each takes on different roles in this quest.

State boards of education are policymaking bodies that function immediately below the legislature. In general, most state boards have six legal powers in common. They: (1) establish certification standards for teachers and administrators, (2) establish high school graduation requirements, 3) establish state testing programs, 4) establish standards for accreditation of school districts and teacher and administrator preparation programs, 5) review and approve the budget of the state education agency and 6) develop rules and regulations for the administration of state programs.

The selection of members for state boards varies from state to state. At present, 32 states have boards composed entirely of appointed members, 11 states have boards composed entirely of elected members and five states have boards composed of both appointed and elected members. In states with appointed members, the appointer is most often the governor, but also includes the lieutenant governor, the legislature, the speaker of the house of representatives, local school boards, the student advisory council, the higher education coordinating council and the governing boards of state-approved K-12 private schools. Two states, Minnesota and Wisconsin, do not have state boards.

Chief state school officers are responsible for the general supervision of the state’s public education system. These individuals head the state education agency and direct activities of the agency’s professional staff in regulating and supporting the state’s public schools. In some states, chiefs are granted limited legislative or quasi-legislative functions if these functions have not been otherwise delegated by the legislature to the state board. The selection of chiefs also varies from state to state. Currently, 36 states have appointed chiefs and 14 states have elected chiefs. In states with appointed chiefs, the appointers are either governors or state boards.

State education agencies are generally responsible for the supervision of all educational institutions in a state and the certification of teachers and administrators. Depending on the state, an agency’s supervisory activities may also include chartering all educational institutions in the state, including schools, libraries, and historical societies; developing and approving school curricula; allocating state and federal financial aid to schools; and providing and coordinating vocational rehabilitation services.


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