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Local Control

Local Control

1 May, 2016

Local Control is the term for the leading and management of public schools by elected or appointed representatives serving on governing bodies, such as school boards or school committees, that are situated in the communities served by the schools.

  • The degree to which local leaders, institutions, and governing bodies can make independent or autonomous judgments about the governance and operation of public schools.

Forms of Local Control in the United States:

  1. Regional school boards:Usually oversee the governance and operation of a school district that serves a variety of communities in a defined area. Membership is consist of locally elected representatives who sit on the board for a defined term of office, and membership is often apportioned in accordance with the population of the participating communities.
  • Responsibilities: Include employing and firing of superintendents, the development of school budgets, and the adoption of district policies. Some districts, it should be noted, may have multiple schools boards. For example, a district may have separate boards overseeing its elementary schools and its secondary schools, or a regional career and technical educationcenter that serves students from one or more districts may have its own governing board.
  1. Municipal school boards:The same in structure and function to regional school boards;  supervise the governance and operations of public schools located in single town or city (given that larger cities have sizeable student populations, they are often defined as standalone school districts).
  • Responsibilities: may be shared with other municipal bodies. For example, a school board may need to secure approval of its annual district budget from the city council, town council, or board of selectpersons.
  1. Regional school unions:A confederation of multiple school boards representing specific towns and municipalities; Consist of elected representatives from the municipalities in a given district, school unions retain a distinct school board for each community.
  • Responsibilities: make collective decisions connected to certain governance functions and independent decisions related to others. For example, schools unions may collectively hire the superintendent and district staff, approve an annual district budget, or set policy for a regional high school that serves students from all the participating communities, while also retaining individual autonomy and governance authority for the elementary and middle schools located in each participating town.
  1. School-based governance: Local control also shows in the form of school-based governance, which can take a wide variety of forms from school to school. For example, charter schools—privately operated schools funded partially or entirely by public money, often in the form of student tuition paid by states and communities—typically have their own distinct governance structure and board of directors. While charter schools are subject to state regulation, they may not need to comply with the policies governing public schools in the districts they are located in.

Reducing local control can:

  1. Lower educational expenses and enhance efficiency of districts and schools. By eliminating administrative positions, closing offices, and consolidating district operations, and by centralizing many administrative and operational functions such as accounting, transportation, maintenance, and purchasing, the overall cost of public schooling will decrease, taxpayers in states and communities will save money, and public schools can be run more efficiently and effectively.
  2. Reduce bureaucracy.School leaders will have more authority to make administrative decisions related to academics, staffing, teaching, and school improvement.
  3. Improve, expand, or diversify school programming.In rural areas with smaller schools, student populations, and district operating budgets, public schools do not have the resources to provide many of the programs, services, and learning opportunities that are available to students in larger schools.
  4. Improve academic excellence, educational consistency, and teaching effectiveness.Because new policies and requirements can enforce higher academic standards for students, and higher professional standards for administrators, teachers, and staff, reducing local control can improve school quality across a state or region.

Increasing local control can:

  1. Advance academic quality and teaching effectiveness in a school.Because the school is being governed and managed by the individuals and institutions that are the most knowledgeable about and invested in the school and its educators, students, and communities, and because no one is more invested in the welfare and success of children than parents, teachers, and community members, locally controlled schools are more likely to act in the best interest of students.
  2. Increase local pride, civic participation, and public and financial support for public schools.Because active participation in the governance process increase feelings of connectedness and ownership, locally controlled schools will benefit from greater community involvement and investment.
  3. Improve teaching and student performance.Because school leaders and teachers in smaller schools with smaller classes know the backgrounds, learning needs, and aspirations of their students better than educators in larger schools with larger numbers of students, consolidating districts and schools could potentially lead to lower-quality teaching and lower student performance.