The Role of the School Board

Statewide System, Local Governance

Every local school district in Washington is part of a statewide system. Local school boards derive their authority from state law. In some respects their management is guided by the State Board of Education (SBE) and the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

In simple terms, the Legislature establishes general requirements and provides the money, which is then allocated by OSPI. The State Board and OSPI adopt the more specific rules needed to implement the laws. But in the final analysis, local school systems are successful because of actions taken by their respective boards. It is the local school board that adopts the budget, determining how much will be spent in each area. Employees can be hired and their salaries set only by a majority vote of the board. School districts in our state are not under the control of city or county officials. (To native Washingtonians, this is obvious. In some states, however, the public schools are part of municipal government.)

There are 295 local school districts in Washington, each with its own elected board. Essentially, each board’s responsibility is “…to make ample provision for the education of all children. This is the board’s legal mandate, as subdivisions of the state. School board members (the official term is school directors) are elected public officials whose charge it is to carry out this constitutional mandate.

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