State Authority

The states are the entities primarily responsible for the maintenance and operation of public schools. The states are also heavily involved in the establishment, selection, and regulation of curriculum, teaching methods, and instructional materials in their schools.

Each state’s constitution requires it to provide a school system where children may receive an education. Many state constitutions also contain express provisions for creating educational curricula. Some state constitutions even empower state authorities to select textbooks and educational materials. Besides constitutional authority, state governments also have authority to legislate in this area, or they can authorize officials to establish, select, and regulate curriculum.

State legislatures have frequently exercised their authority to mandate specific courses to be taught in public schools. They have also set mandatory requirements for students to graduate. In cases where state rules and regulations for courses do exist, they must be followed. Local school districts may, however, offer courses and activities in the instructional program beyond those required by state statute. Other states delegate more of their authority. They usually prescribe a model curriculum framework, allowing local authorities to develop their own curricula based on the general state goals.

In many jurisdictions, state authorities adopt textbooks and instructional materials. Local boards and educators then may select from among the pre-approved materials. Generally, local authorities have the authority to declare state-adopted instructional materials unacceptable. States may mandate the use of uniform, adopted textbooks within a school’s instructional program, but such exercise of power is rare. Instead, local boards are usually allowed to select materials to supplement the state-selected materials.

Inside State Authority