Understand Your School Board

School boards: Advocates for educational excellence

Every local school district is governed by a school board. These school board members (or trustees) are guardians of the public trust; they put the interests of their community's youth first. Though the policies they make, school board members are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of local public education.

This is a difficult job; trustees face hard choices, self-sacrifice, and exporsure to public criticism. However, it also brings a great deal of personal satifsfaction in sharing with parents, staff, and students their academic successes. This crucial responsibility and the closeness of trustees to the voters make the local school board the purest example of democracy our society presents.

Who is responsible for public education in Texas?
The commissioner of education, the State Board of Education (SBOE), and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) guide and monitor public education in Texas. The SBOE provides leadership and state level administration as prescribed by law, and the commissioner and TEA staff implement state education policy. Texas has delegated much of the responsibility for education to the local school board. Although state and federal laws have continued to restrict local control, school districts still have significant authority in governing schools.
Why do we need local school boards?

The US Supreme Court has said education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Our system of local school districts and boards of education epitomizes representative and participatory government—citizens elected from their community making decisions about educational programs based on community needs, values, and expectations. School boards are entrusted by the public to translate the needs of students into policies, plans, and goals that will be supported by the community.

What do school boards do?
  • Ensure creation of a vision and goals for the district and evaluate district success.
  • Adopt policies that inform district actions.
  • Hire a superintendent to serve as the chief executive officer of the district and evaluate the superintendent’s success.
  • Approve an annual budget consistent with the district vision.
  • Communicate the district’s vision and success to the community.
How do school boards make decisions?
A school board is a local governmental body that can take action only by a majority vote at a legally called public meeting. The individual board member’s major responsibility is to study issues facing the district, evaluate needs and resources, and, after due consideration, vote in the best interest of all students at such a meeting.
Can citizens attend school board meetings?
Yes. School boards must meet in compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and make public records available pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act. Citizens are welcome at all school board meetings, except in a few legally specified circumstances permitting closed meetings. Most school boards allow citizen participation and have policies communicating how and when citizens contribute their input. Generally, boards set aside a portion of the regular meeting for public comment and limit each speaker to five minutes. This is a chance for citizens to give input while allowing adequate time for other important board business.