The line between policy and regulation—where one ends and the other begins—can seem fuzzy at first. Learning how school board policies and regulations are different is essential for board members. Not being able to recognize the difference can set up an imbalance in your board's relationship with the superintendent and other district administrators.
- Policy: A written guideline adopted by the board under which the school district operates. Policy should reflect essential board governance statements, such as broad authorizations of programs and services or outlining the administration’s role in implementing these programs.
- Regulation: Based on district policies but left to administrative discretion in both design and implementation. Regulations should not be adopted by the board but may be reviewed for compliance with the law and board policy.
It’s all right if you’re still not sure what makes a regulation different from a policy. It will become clearer as your board works through what certain policies encompass and draws the line between the role of the board and the role of the administration in policy making.
School board policy
Policies define the purposes and prescribe in general terms. They create a framework within which the superintendent and other district staff can discharge their assigned duties. Policy is one way the board communicates what it wants of administration. Policies should clearly define what the board intends or requires, leaving the “how” of implementation and administration to the superintendent or their designees.
Administrative regulations define how a policy is executed. A regulation can:
- Designate a management process
- Specify a step-by-step process to enforce policy
- Describe what, when, how, and by whom the policy is enforced
- Give instructions
- Provide examples of exhibits, forms, or management reference tools
- Give specific applications of the policy
- Expand or complement the policy
Taking the time to determine the practical implications of these definitions for your district will ensure healthy, open lines of communication among your board, the superintendent, and school district administration.
Policy development resources for school boards
TASB has policy resources to help you and your board better serve students, parents, administrators, teachers, and district staff in the Policy Service Resource Library: