Local-Control State


In education, the term local-control state refers to states in which the governing and management of public schools is largely conducted by elected or appointed representatives serving on governing bodies, such as school boards or school committees, that are located in the communities served by the schools. For a related discussion, see autonomy.

The concept of local control is grounded in a philosophy of government premised on the belief that the individuals and institutions closest to the students and most knowledgeable about a school—and most invested in the welfare and success of its educators, students, and communities—are best suited to making important decisions related to its operation, leadership, staffing, academics, teaching, and improvement. This general philosophy of governance is often contrasted with state or federal policies intended to influence the structure, operation, or academic programs in public schools, given that level of control granted to local governing bodies is directly related to the level of prescription articulated in education laws, regulations, and related compliance rules and requirements.

While the United States Constitution does not explicitly mention education, the Tenth Amendment states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” which has been widely interpreted to give states primary authority and control over the governance and operation of public schools (that said, many federal laws and regulations heavily influence the operation of public schools both directly and indirectly). The role that state governments and agencies play in school governance and management varies from state to state, with some states exerting more direct control over public schools and other states allowing local governing bodies to adopt policies and perform governance functions for the schools located in their district or community. States that assign more responsibility over the governance and management of public schools to local governing bodies are commonly called “local-control states.” Historically, these states have generally deferred to local school boards and committees on governance issues, even issues related to compliance with state statutes and regulations.

For a more detailed discussion, see local control.