Legal Framework for Education


LegalFramework for Education

Allschools in the U.S are governed by a multifarious body of laws thatare based on state and federal constitutions, federal and stateadministrative agencies, statutes and case laws (Lunenburg, 2012). Atthe local level, the school board policies offer another source oflaw for administrators. The law that touch on public schools haveincreased substantially both in complexity and volume since the 19thcentury (Underwood, 2005).

Allthe three units of government in the United States -local, state andfederal – exercise some level of control and authority over publicschools in the United States (Lunenburg, 2012). Governance ofeducation in schools is the result of statutory and constitutionalterms of the national government, the states governments and caselaws. The extent to which local schools boards control and influencemanagement of district schools depend on the statutory andconstitutional provisions of their states (Underwood, 2005).

FederalRole in Education

Atthe national level, the U.S Constitution, the federal administrativeagencies, and statutes and the case laws all for the main sources oflaw under which all school administrators operate (Underwood, 2005).

UnitedStates Constitution

Eventhough education is not explicitly mentioned in theU.SConstitution, the federal government has had a substantialcontribution in education (Lunenburg, 2012). In fact, there are manyprograms under federal statutes relating to pk-12 education in thepast years. Such programs have consumed about 7% of the totalexpenditure on secondary and elementary education (Lunenburg, 2012).The federal government has played a crucial role in trying toinfluence various aspects that affect the education in the U.S.Education issues such as equitable state financing, racialdiscrimination, freedom of expression of teachers and students haveall been redressed by the federal judiciary (Lunenburg, 2012). Theconstitution is the supreme law of the country, and all provisionsand statutes passed relating to education by the state legislators,Congress, and policies of local school boards are subject to itsprovisions (Underwood, 2005). Some of the provisions in the U.Sconstitution that have had profound impacts on education in thecountry include, the Commerce Clause, the First, Fourth, Fifth andFourteenth Amendments, the General Welfare Clause, and Article 1,Section 10 (ASSA. 2013).


Thecourts in the U.S have also contributed immensely to the body of lawthat has impacted education policies and operations in the country(Lunenburg, 2012). Federal courts have provided guidelines andstatutes on issues such as equitable financing of schools, racialdiscrimination, separation of state and church and equal protectionof students, dressing standards for teachers and students, andfreedom of expression, for teachers and students (Underwood, 2005). In it important t note that case law is not settled all the time, insome occasions federal district courts conflict with the courts ofappeals. In this light, school administrators adhere to case lawrendered within their jurisdiction. The only courts whose decisionaffect the whole nation is the Supreme Court. A decision by theSupreme Court can only be modified by a decision by a high Court orthrough a constitutional amendment (ASSA. 2013).


Publiclearning institutions are also governed by the statutes passed bystate legislators. These statutes are a vital source of law forschool administrators. Statutes that govern education vary from onestate to another (ASSA. 2013). Typical legislation passed in statelegislators can increases revenue to schools, prescribe curricular,determine the length of a school day, set regulation relating tosupervision and expulsion of learners, set procedure of tenure,retirement, and creation and removal of school boards (Lunenburg,2012).

StateAdministrative Agencies

Stateadministrative agencies include board of education, chief stateschool Officer (CSSO), and state department of education. Their roleand duties vary depending on the state in question (Lunenburg, 2012).Nonetheless, administrative agencies both individually andcollectively provide a very important source of law for schooladministration. School boards develop regulations and policies toexecute constitutional and legislation requirements. Throughaccreditation, boards set minimum standards in facets such as teacherqualification, curriculum, facilities and instructional materials(Lunenburg, 2012). Noncompliance can attract withholding of funds.Departments of state’s education have various divisions withspecialized roles such as research, administration and finance(Lunenburg, 2012). These departments gather data and information tosee to it that legislative requirement are met, and school boardpolicies are executed.


Itis evident that the responsibility for education is primarily underthe arm of the state governments, but it is also evident that suchresponsibilities just like any other function must be exercised inagreement with the provisions of the U.S constitution. In itimportant t note that case law is not settled all the time, in someoccasions federal district courts conflict with the courts ofappeals. The U.S constitution, the case laws, the state statutes andadministrative agencies have been important sources of laws thatgovern education. The combined prescription ensures schools are runappropriately and reflect the American society, values, standards,and policies.


AmericanAssociation of School Administrators, (ASSA)(2013). TheSchool administrator.Arlington, VA, etc: American Association of School Administrato

Lunenburg,F.C. (2012).TheLegal Framework for Public Education.Focus On Colleges, Universities, And Schools Volume 6, Number 1,.Retrieved from:,%20Fred%

Underwood,J. K. (2005). Legalaspects of special education and pupil services.Boston [u.a.: Allyn and Bacon.