How School Policies Are Created
It’s easy to find school policies on your district’s Website, but you may be wondering how those policies came to be. Who makes school policies? And how do they decide what the policies should be? The school board adopts policy, usually on the recommendation of the superintendent, and the superintendent then implements those policies; however, public school policies also originate from federal, state, and local sources.
When you look at your school district’s policies, the policies that have (LEGAL) in the upper right hand corner of the page include the relevant law on that particular topic. Because they are merely a summary of the law, they are not adopted by the school board. The policies that have (LOCAL) in the upper right hand corner of the page reflect decisions made by your district’s school board and are board adopted.
Education is primarily a state and local responsibility, in that funding and governance mostly come from state and local sources. However, the federal government does provide funding to schools and passes education laws, including the following:
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities;
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act includes a number of measures created to increase student achievement and hold schools more accountable for student progress;
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student education records.
To continue with one of our examples, let’s say there is a (LEGAL) policy in your district that restricts access to students’ personal information to specific individuals. Most of the content of that (LEGAL) policy likely comes from FERPA.
At this point, you may ask, “How are laws made?” A law begins as an idea and goes through a multistep process to become a law. Read “How a bill becomes a law" from the U.S. History Website to learn more.
The Texas Education Code (TEC), created by the Texas Legislature, is one set of state statutes (laws) governing public education in Texas. TEC applies to all independent school districts.
For instance, the vaccinations your child is required to get before enrollment in school are determined by the Texas Legislature and set out in the TEC and the Texas Administrative Code:
Each student shall be fully immunized against diptheria, rubeola (measles), rubella, mumps, tetanus, and poliomyelitis. The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) may modify or delete any of these immunizations or may require immunizations against additional diseases as a requirement for admission to any elementary or secondary school. Education Code 38.001(a), (b)
TDSHS requires students in kindergarten through twelfth grade to have the following additional vaccines, according to the immunization schedules set forth in department regulations: pertussis, hepatitis B, hepatitis A (for students attending schools in high incidence geographic areas as designated by the department), and varicella (chickenpox). TDSHS requires students in seventh through twelfth grade to have the meningococcal vaccine, according to the immunization schedules set forth in department regulations. 25 TAC 97.63(2)(B)
When lawmakers amend state or federal law, school district policies must be modified to reflect those changes.
If we all live in Texas and are accountable to the same state and federal laws, why do policies vary from district to district?
One reason is that federal and state laws sometimes leave the implementation of the law up to the local districts. Therefore, district A’s policy may differ from neighboring district B’s policy because the districts have chosen different routes for implementation.
Another reason is because of unique local goals, priorities, and needs. No two districts are identical in population, demographics, enrollment numbers, wealth, and educational performance. This is the beauty of local school district governance—school board members work to form policies that best fit the needs of their own district. Policy changes may become necessary when there are changes to these factors or to the relevant law.
New policies become necessary when circumstances change, like the use of emerging technology in schools.
How parents can influence policy
The superintendent and other school administrators recommend policies for the board to adopt. They discuss these policies during school board meetings that you can attend. Remember that the local community elects school board members, so you have a say in who gets a seat on the board.
School administrators may seek input from parents and citizens before proposed policies or procedures become final, so make your opinions known!
School board meetings are open to the public. Look for school board meeting agendas and times on your local district Website.