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A school district is a special-purpose district that operates local public primary and secondary schools in various nations.
In the U.S, most K–12 public schools function as units of local school districts, which usually operate several schools, and the largest urban and suburban districts operate hundreds of schools. While practice varies significantly by state (and in some cases, within a state), most American school districts operate as independent local governmental units under a grant of authority and within geographic limits created by state law.The executive and legislative power over locally controlled policies and operations of an independent school district are, in most cases, held by a school district's board of education. Depending on state law, members of a local board of education (often referred to informally as a school board) may be elected, appointed by a political office holder, serve ex officio, or a combination of any of these.
An independent school district is a legally separate body corporate and political. While the controlling law varies, in the United States most school districts operate as independent local governmental units with exclusive authority over K–12 public educational operations and policies. The extent of this control is set by state-level law. Litigation against school districts is common; law firms that specialize in school law handle such litigation and it is paid for by school board professional liability insurance.
Independent school districts often exercise authority over a school system that is analogous to the authority of local governments like that of a town or a county. These include the power to enter contacts, eminent domain, and the power to issue binding rules and regulations affecting school policies and operations. The power of school districts to tax and spend is generally more limited. An independent school district's annual budget may require approval by the plebiscite (much of New York) or the local government. Additionally, independent taxation authority may or may not exist as in Virginia, whose school divisions have no taxing authority and must depend on another local government (county, city, or town) for funding. Its governing body, which is typically elected by direct popular vote but may be appointed by other governmental officials, is called a school board , board of trustees, board of education,school committee, or the like. This body appoints a superintendent of schools , usually an experienced public school administrator, to function as the district's chief executive for carrying out day-to-day decisions and policy implementations. The school board may also exercise a quasi-judicial function in serious employee or student discipline matters.
School districts in the Midwest and West tend to cross municipal boundaries, while school districts in New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions tend to adhere to city, township, and/or county boundaries. As of 1951 [update] school districts were independent governmental units in 26 states, while in 17 states there were mixes of independent school districts and school districts subordinate to other local governments. In nine states there were only school districts subordinate to local governments.
In most Southern states, school systems operate either as an arm of county government or at least share coextensive boundaries with the state's counties. A 2010 study by economist William A. Fischel found that "two-thirds of medium-to-large American cities have boundaries that substantially overlap those of a single school district" with substantial regional and state variations in the degree of overlap, "ranging from nearly perfect congruence in New England, New Jersey, and Virginia, to hardly any in Illinois, Texas, and Florida."Older and more populous municipalities "tend to have boundaries that closely match those of a single school district." Noting that most modern school districts were formed by consolidating one-room school districts in the first seven decades of the 20th century, Fischel argues that "outside the South, these consolidations were consented to by local voters" who "preferred districts whose boundaries conformed to their everyday interactions rather than formal units of government" and that "[t]he South ended up with county-based school districts because segregation imposed diseconomies of scale on district operations and required larger land-area districts."
In New York, most school districts are separate governmental units with the power to levy taxes and incur debt, except for the five cities with a population of over 125,000 (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers, and New York City), where the schools are operated directly by the municipalities.
The Hawaii State Department of Education functions as a single statewide school district, unique among states.
According to a 2021 study, the demographics of voters who elect local school boards in the United States tend not to align with the demographics of the students. This gap is "most pronounced in majority nonwhite jurisdictions and school districts with the largest racial achievement gaps."
There were 130,000 school districts in the country in 1930, with an average student population of 150.From 1942 to 1951 the number of school districts declined from 108,579 to 70,452, a decrease of 38,127 or 35%. Many states had passed laws facilitating school district consolidation. In 1951 the majority of the school districts in existence were rural school districts only providing elementary education, and some school districts did not operate schools but instead provided transportation to other schools. The Midwest had a large number of rural school districts.
Previously areas of the Unorganized Borough of Alaska were not served by school districts but instead served by schools directly operated by the Alaska Department of Education and by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools. The state schools were transferred to the Alaska State-Operated School System (SOS) after the Alaska Legislature created it in 1971; that agency was terminated in 1975, with its schools transferred to the newly created Alaska Unorganized Borough School District, which was broken apart into twenty-one school districts the following year.
In the 2017 Census of Governments, the United States Census Bureau enumerated the following numbers of school systems in the United States:
School districts in the US have reduced the number of their employees by 3.3%, or 270,000 between 2008 and 2012, owing to a decline in property tax revenues during and after the Great Recession.By 2016 there were about 13,000 school districts, and the average student population was about 5,000.
This article may not provide balanced geographical coverage on school districts in states across the U.S.(December 2010)
Although these terms can vary slightly between various states and regions, these are typical definitions for school district constitution:
These terms may not appear in a district's name, even though the condition may apply.
Outside the United States, autonomous districts or equivalent authorities often represent various groups seeking education autonomy. In European history, as in much of the world, religious (confessional), linguistic, and ethnic divisions have been a significant factor in school organization. This paradigm is shifting.[ how? ]
In England and Wales, school boards were established in 1870, and abolished in 1902, with the county council and county borough councils becoming the local education authorities.
In France, the system of the carte scolaire was dismantled by the beginning of the 2007 school year. More school choice has been given to French students; however, priority is given to those who meet the following criteria:
In Germany, schools and teachers are predominately funded by the States of Germany, which also are in control of the overall education policies. On the other hand, school buildings are mostly run and funded by municipal governments on different levels of the municipal system (municipalities proper, districts), depending on the size and specialization of a certain school or the population size of a certain municipality. As with other fields of government, for more specialized schools, special government bodies ("Zweckverband") can be established, where municipalities, and not voters, are members; these are to a certain degree comparable to a school district. Other arrangements are possible: certain types of special schools in North Rhine-Westphalia are run by the Landschaftsverbände. There also exist private schools, mostly funded by the States, but run by private entities like churches or foundations.
In Italy, school districts were established in 1974 by the "Provvedimenti Delegati sulla scuola" ("Assigned Laws [to the Government] about the school").Each district must contain a minimum of 10,000 inhabitants. The national government attempted to link the local schools with local society and culture and local governments. The school districts were dissolved in 2003 by the "legge finanziaria" (law about the government budget) in an attempt to trim the national budget.
In the Republic of Ireland, 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) administer a minority of secondary schools, a few primary schools, and much further education. (Most schools are neither organized geographically nor publicly managed, although the Department of Education inspects and funds them and pays teachers' salaries.) Each ETB area comprises one or more local authority areas, with city or county councilors forming the bulk of the ETB board. The ETBs was formed in 2005 by amalgamating Vocational Education Committees established in 1930, also based on local government areas.
In Hong Kong, the Education Bureau divides primary schools into 36 districts, known as school nets, for its Primary One Admission System.Of the 36 districts, districts 34 and 41 in Kowloon and districts 11 and 12 in Hong Kong Island are considered the most prestigious.
In the United States, a county or county equivalent is an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority. The term "county" is used in 48 states, while Louisiana and Alaska have functionally equivalent subdivisions called parishes and boroughs, respectively. The specific governmental powers of counties vary widely between the states, with many providing some level of services to civil townships, municipalities, and unincorporated areas. Certain municipalities are in multiple counties; New York City is uniquely partitioned into five counties, referred to at the city government level as boroughs. Some municipalities have consolidated with their county government to form consolidated city-counties, or have been legally separated from counties altogether to form independent cities. Conversely, those counties in Connecticut, Rhode Island, eight of Massachusetts's 14 counties, and Alaska's Unorganized Borough have no government power, existing only as geographic distinctions.
In United States local government, a consolidated city-county is formed when one or more cities and their surrounding county merge into one unified jurisdiction. As such it has the governmental powers of both a municipal corporation and an administrative division of a state.
A civil township is a widely used unit of local government in the United States that is subordinate to a county, most often in the northern and midwestern parts of the country. The term town is used in New England, New York, and Wisconsin to refer to the equivalent of the civil township in these states; Minnesota uses "town" officially but often uses it and "township" interchangeably. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary in each state. Civil townships are distinct from survey townships, but in states that have both, the boundaries often coincide and may completely geographically subdivide a county. The U.S. Census Bureau classifies civil townships as minor civil divisions. Currently, there are 20 states with civil townships.
The administrative divisions of New York are the various units of government that provide local services in the State of New York. The state is divided into boroughs, counties, cities, towns, and villages. They are municipal corporations, chartered (created) by the New York State Legislature, as under the New York Constitution the only body that can create governmental units is the state. All of them have their own governments, sometimes with no paid employees, that provide local services. Centers of population that are not incorporated and have no government or local services are designated hamlets. Whether a municipality is defined as a borough, city, town, or village is determined not by population or land area, but rather on the form of government selected by the residents and approved by the New York Legislature. Each type of local government is granted specific home rule powers by the New York State Constitution. There are still occasional changes as a village becomes a city, or a village dissolves, each of which requires legislative action. New York also has various corporate entities that provide local services and have their own administrative structures (governments), such as school and fire districts. These are not found in all counties.
State schools or public schools are generally primary or secondary schools that educate all students without charge. They are funded in whole or in part by taxation. State funded schools exist in virtually every country of the world, though there are significant variations in their structure and educational programmes. State education generally encompasses primary and secondary education.
Local government in the United States refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. Most states and territories have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. Louisiana uses the term parish and Alaska uses the term borough for what the U.S. Census Bureau terms county equivalents in those states. Civil townships or towns are used as subdivisions of a county in 20 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.
Local Agency Formation Commissions or LAFCOs are regional service planning agencies of the State of California. LAFCOs are located in all 58 counties and exercise regulatory and planning powers in step with their prescribed directive to oversee the establishment, expansion, governance, and dissolution of local government agencies and their municipal service areas to meet current and future community needs. LAFCOs were established in 1963 and administer a section of California planning law now known as the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2001.
Massachusetts shares with the five other New England states a governmental structure known as the New England town. Only the southeastern third of the state has functioning county governments; in western, central, and northeastern Massachusetts, traditional county-level government was eliminated in the late 1990s. Generally speaking, there are four kinds of public school districts in Massachusetts: local schools, regional schools, vocational/technical schools, and charter schools.
The Unorganized Borough is composed of the portions of the U.S. state of Alaska which are not contained in any of its 19 organized boroughs. While referred to as the "Unorganized Borough," it is not a borough itself, as it forgoes that level of government structure. It encompasses nearly half of Alaska's land area, 323,440 square miles (837,700 km2), an area larger than any other U.S. state, and larger than the land area of the smallest 16 states combined. As of the 2020 U.S. Census, it had a population of 77,157, which was 10.52% of the population of the state. The largest communities in the Unorganized Borough are the cities of Bethel, Unalaska and Valdez.
The government of Texas operates under the Constitution of Texas and consists of a unitary democratic state government operating under a presidential system that uses the Dillon Rule, as well as governments at the county and municipal levels.
The government of Louisville, Kentucky, headquartered at Louisville City Hall in Downtown Louisville, is organized under Chapter 67C of the Kentucky Revised Statutes as a First-Class city in the state of Kentucky. Created after the merger of the governments of Louisville, Kentucky and Jefferson County, Kentucky, the city/county government is organized under a mayor-council system. The Mayor is elected to four-year terms and is responsible for the administration of city government. The Louisville Metro Council is a unicameral body consisting of 26 members, each elected from a geographic district, normally for four-year terms. The Mayor is limited to a three consecutive term limit, while members of the Louisville Metro Council are not term limited.
An independent school district (ISD) is a type of school district in some US states for primary and secondary education that operates as an entity independent and separate from any municipality or county, and only under the oversight of the respective state government. As such, the administrative leadership of such districts is selected from within the district itself and has no direct responsibility to any other governmental authority. This independence normally also implies that the district has its own taxing authority that is outside the direct control of other governmental entities.
Local government in New Jersey is composed of counties and municipalities. Local jurisdictions in New Jersey differ from those in some other states because every square foot of the state is part of exactly one municipality; each of the 564 municipalities is in exactly one county; and each of the 21 counties has more than one municipality. New Jersey has no independent cities, or consolidated city-counties.
Elections in Illinois provide for the election of over 40,000 elected seats across over 6,000 units of government.
The government of Jacksonville is organized under the city charter and provides for a "strong" mayor–council system. The most notable feature of the government in Jacksonville, Florida, is that it is consolidated with Duval County, which the jurisdictions agreed to in the 1968 Jacksonville Consolidation.
City limits or city boundaries refer to the defined boundary or border of a city. The area within the city limit can be called the city proper. Town limit/boundary and village limit/boundary apply to towns and villages. Similarly, corporate limit is a legal name that refers to the boundary of municipal corporations. In some countries, the limit of a municipality may be expanded through annexation.
A Non-high school district is an American form of public school district which does not itself provide a high school, but instead reimburses nearby public districts with high schools for the education of students in the non-high district. At least two states in the United States — Illinois and Washington — still have districts designated as non-high school districts. Another state, Kentucky, does not use the term, but has four districts that do not operate high schools.
California has an extensive system of local government that manages public functions throughout the state. Like most states, California is divided into counties, of which there are 58 covering the entire state. Most urbanized areas are incorporated as cities, though not all of California is within the boundaries of a city. School districts, which are independent of cities and counties, handle public education. Many other functions, especially in unincorporated areas, are handled by special districts, which include municipal utility districts, transit districts, health care districts, vector control districts, and geologic hazard abatement districts.
The Government of Los Angeles County is defined and authorized under the California Constitution, California law, and the Charter of the County of Los Angeles. Much of the Government of California is in practice the responsibility of county governments, such as the Government of Los Angeles County. The County government provides countywide services such as elections and voter registration, law enforcement, jails, vital records, property records, tax collection, public health, health care, and social services. In addition the County serves as the local government for all unincorporated areas.
Texas has a total of 254 counties, many cities, and numerous special districts, the most common of which is the independent school district.