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Legislation as It Affects State School Administration
Principles and Trends Across the Nation During the Past Decade
by Ward W. Keesecker, Specialist in School Legislation
MPROVEMENTS IN State laws affecting part of a State has applied also in the field It is for the law-making power to de
the administration of State systems of of education, and under this freedom were termine whether the authority (over edueducation offer a challenging opportunity established the beginnings of our present
cation) shall be exercised by a State board
of education, or distributed to county, foi constructive leadership in educational State systems of public education. Under township, or city organizations throughout affairs. Experience in the development of this freedom, public education has come
the State. . . . As the power over schools State systems of education clearly indi- now to be the primary and biggest enter- is a legislative one it is not exhausted by cates that the legal organization and forms prise of the States. Quoting again from
exercise. The legislature, having tried one and principles of State educational systems Justice Brandeis:
plan, is not precluded from trying an
other. ... (23 N. E. 946.) are vitally related to efficiency in education. America has believed in differentiation, not
In the American Commonwealths, where Hence, those of us who seek to improve our uniformity, lies the path of progress. It State educational systems do not naively acted on this belief; it has advanced human
education continues to be regarded prima. subscribe to Pope's idea: happiness, and it has prospered.
rily as a State function, the following basic “For forms of government let fools con
In most States the people have been con
legal principles may be noted: test; That which is best administered is tent with few or limited constitutional pro- 1. State legislatures have absolute power to best.”
visions for education. For example, in control public schools unless limited by
most States it has been sufficient to limit constitutional provisions. (State conHowever excellent may be the quality of
constitutional provisions simply to that of stitutions generally turn the subject over school personnel, it does not supplant the need for wise legal organization and pro
charging the legislature with responsibility to the legislatures.)
for an adequate and uniform system of edu- 2. The control of education is in no way cedures in the administration of education.
cation. Some go further and provide oper- . Constitutions and statutory enactments de
inherent in the local self-government ational structure and organization and de- except as the legislatures have chosen to termine the structural organization and fine the powers and duties of school officials.
make it so. guiding principles of State school admin
3. Public education may be a separate field istration.
Legislative Power Over Education distinct from local government.
Public schools exist by operation of law. Constitutional Status of Education
4. The legislature having tried one method In this country public schools are the crea
of school administration and mainteEducation under our form of govern. tures of the State legislature acting under
nance is not precluded from trying ment is committed in the main to the several
another. constitutional authority. Except as modiStates. The Tenth Amendment of the Fed. fied by constitutional restraints, a State eral Constitution leaves to each State of the legislature has plenary power over educa
Significant Trends Union the right and the responsibility to tion. The legislature also has a choice to
The Chief State School Officer organize its educational system as it deems exercise or not to exercise its
and most appropriate. there is no direct recourse for the people for
Selection. It is significant to note that With few exceptions, State constitutions failure on the part of the legislature to act.
the trend during the past 10 years has been
definitely toward appointment of State make it obligatory upon their respective The legislature cannot be brought before
superintendents by State boards of educalegislatures to provide for the establish- any superior tribunal to answer for its failment and maintenance of efficient systems
tion. This trend is evidenced by legis. ure to act. On the other hand, if it acts
lation in five States, namely, Colorado, of public schools. State legislatures are beyond its authority such acts may be overconsidered as having full and plenary pow. ruled by the courts.
Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Texas. ers with respect to educational affairs. Ac- The educational prerogative of a State
Missouri in 1944, by constitutional amendcording to the late Justice Brandeis: legislature is a vital one. The authority
ment, changed the method of selecting the
chief State school officer from election by It is one of the happy incidents of the Fed
over education has been held by courts to eral system that a single courageous State be not necessarily a distributive one, to be
the people to appointment by the State
board of education; may, if its citizens choose, serve as a labora. exercised by local instrumentalities; but on tory to try novel, social and economic exthe contrary, a central power residing in the
The legislature of MASSACHUSETTS in 1947 periments without risk to the rest of the legislature of the State. This principle has
changed the method of selecting the chief country.
State school officer from appointment by been aptly stated by the Supreme Court of
the governor to appointment by the State This freedom of experimentation on the Indiana in the following words:
board of education;
COLORADO in 1948, by constitutional amend. tion of higher learning. He shall subscribe hoard of education. In 1949 Texas rement, changed the selection of the chief to the oath of office required of other State constituted its State board. Moreover, in State school officer from election by the officials.
1949 the legislature of Maine established for people to appointment by the State board
It is significant to note that the legislaof education.
the first time a general State board of tures in all five States have declared that the
education. In 1949 the legislature of Texas changed the
State commissioner of education shall be selection of the chief State school officer
What are the significant changes and from election by the people to appointment
the chief administrative or executive officer trends manifest in these recent legislative by the State board of education. of the State board of education,
developments with respect to State boards? Moreover, in 1949 the legislature of MAINE Duties.—Recent legislation in Massa
(1) A trend towards removal of control changed the selection of the State com- chusetts and Missouri, with few exceptions, over State boards of education by the missioner of education from appointment stipulated that the duties of the State com
governor. A decade ago the governor was by the governor to selection by a newly created State board of education.
ex officio member of the State board of edumissioner of education shall be prescribed by the State board of education.
cation in 15 States. Legislation within the These changes reflect also a trend away
In Colorado and Texas it is noteworthy
decade removed the governor from memfrom election of State superintendents by
that, while making the State board of edu. bership on State boards in the States of popular election in favor of appointment
cation the principal educational policy. Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and by the State board, as evidenced by the
determining agency, and while making the North Carolina. In 2 of these States the States of Missouri, Colorado, and Texas.
State commissioner of education the execu- governor was not only an ex officio member Term of Office. -Legislation affecting tive officer of the State board, the legisla- but was also chairman of the Board. Thus the term of office of the chief State school
tures of these States also prescribe certain legislative changes in 10 years have reduced officer in Colorado, Maine, and Missouri duties for the commissioner of education. by one-third the number of States where shifted from 2-, 3., and 4-year terms, re- Most of these duties are of the type which the governor was a member of the State spectively, to an indefinite tenure—at the are usually assigned to the chief State board of education, leaving 10 States in discretion or pleasure of the State board of school officer by a State board or which which the governor is still a member. education. are customarily expected to be performed (2) A trend toward removal of appoint.
ment of the chief State school officer by the Salary:--Legislation in Colorado, Maine, by the chief State school officer. The merits Massachusetts, Missouri, and Texas left it
of the duties legislatively assigned to the governor and his appointment by the State
chief State school officer must be measured board of education, as evidenced in Maine to the State board of education to fix the in terms of whether they will promote ef
and Massachusetts. salary of the State commissioner of educa
ficiency in administration and clarity of (3) A trend away from appointment of tion; provided, however, that the salary relationship between the chief State school
State boards by the governor.
This was in may not exceed $8,000 per annum in Maine
officer and the State board of education. evidence in Maine, Texas, and Washington. and $11,000 in Massachusetts.
The recent legislation in Colorado and (4) A trend toward removal of the State Professional Qualifications. The new Texas affecting the relationship between the superintendent from membership on State Colorado law provides that the State com- State board of education and the chief State boards of education. During the decade missioner of education shall have "such school officer reflects a prevailing principle legislation in four States removed the State professional qualifications as shall be in American legislative procedure, namely, superintendent from State boards of edudeemed appropriate.” The Missouri law a disposition to separate the delegation of
cation. These States are: Colorado, Kanprovides that the State commissioner of legislative or policy-making functions from sas, Missouri, and Washington. In West education shall possess “educational attain
purely administrative or ministerial duties. Virginia the status of State superintendent ments and breadth of experience in the ad
was altered to the effect that, while remainState Boards of Education ministration of public education."
ing as a member of the State board, he was The
Prolific changes have occurred during denied voting privilege on the board. new Texas law stipulates that:
the past decade affecting the selection, com- (5) A trend toward removal of all ex The State Commissioner of Education
position, and organization of State boards officio members on State boards of educa. shall be a person of broad and professional of education and their functions. Legis- tion. In 6 States-Colorado, Indiana, Kaneducational experience, with special and
lation on this subject has occurred in no less sas, Missouri, North Carolina, and Washrecognized abilities of the highest order in
than 16 States. Interest in this field conorganization, direction and coordination of
ington--the legislatures removed other education systems and programs, with par
tinues unabated. Legislative changes dur- State officials as ex officio members on the ticular abilities in administration and man
ing the past 10 years affecting the selection State board of education. (During the past agement of public schools and public edu- and/or composition of State boards of
decade, however, Delaware added two ex cation generally. The Commissioner of education occurred in Arkansas and Ore. officio members to its State board.) Education shall be a citizen of the United gon, 1941; Georgia and North Carolina, (6) The trend is toward larger memStates and of the State of Texas for a period
1943; Missouri, constitutional changes in bership on State boards of education. Durof not less than five (5) years immediately
1944 and legislative in 1945; Kansas, Indi. ing the decade 11 States increased the numpreceding his appointment; of good moral
ana, and New Jersey, in 1945; and Massa- ber of members on their respective State character; shall be eligible for the highest school administrator's certificate currently
chusetts, Vermont, Washington, and West boards of education. These States are: issued by the State Department of Educa
Virginia, in 1947. In 1948 Colorado by Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Massachution; and shall have a minimum of a
constitutional amendment, implemented by setts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Master's Degree from a recognized institu- legislation in 1949, reconstituted its State Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Vir
Current Legislative Problems With
sions or positions to be established in the
LEGAL provisions governing State school
WHAT provisions and/or principles relating to education should be embodied in State constitutions generally? In dealing with a particular State, this problem is likely to present itself somewhat realistically as follows: What constitutional provisions should be added, deleted, or modified in order to improve State school administration?
* SHOULD a State board and also a chief State school officer be provided for in the State constitution? If so, what provision should be incorporated with respect to them?
* HOW should members of State boards of education be selected? What should be their qualifications? Also, how many members should constitute a State board?
* WHAT legislative powers should be delegated to the general State board of education? SHOULD all State educational functions be handled entirely by one general State board of education? Are there certain educa. tional functions which should be assigned to separate or special boards? If so, what are they?
* WHAT functions and/or powers should be assigned to the State superintendent? Should some of them be assigned by statute and some by discretion of State board?
SHOULD the legislature stipulate any
WHATEVER the degree of State admin.
Observations and Conclusions
STATE legislatures are free to change or
SCHOOL administration may not be an ex-
IT IS DESIRABLE that legislation affecting
WHAT statutory provisions should govern the functions and organization of State departments of education? What functions or types of services should be specified by law or left principally for the State board to determine? What types of legislative provision affecting the organization of State departments are most desirable?
SHOULD the legislature designate divi.
of increase is from 1 ad. rado. Missouri in 1944, by constitutional (8) Most recent legal changes during ditional member in Arkansas and Georgia amendment, abolished the ex officio State the decade reflect a tendency toward the to 11 additional members in Texas. Mem- board of four members and established a selection of State board members by popubership on State boards of education now new State board of eight members ap- lar vote, as was manifest in Colorado and ranges from 3 members in Mississippi and pointed by the governor. In 1948 Colo- Texas in 1948 and 1949. Both of these Oregon to 21 members in Texas.
rado, by constitutional amendment, abol. States adopted the system of electing by Still other significant changes were made ished its three-member ex officio board and popular vote one board member from each with respect to the State boards of educa- established a State board of education congressional district. tion and the method of their selection. whose members are chosen by popular elec- (9) Finally, legislation over the decade
(7) The trend is toward the abolition of tion, one from each congressional district reflects a definite trend toward vesting in constitutionally created ex officio State (if even number of congressional districts, State boards of education increasing reboards of education. This is evidenced by then one additional member elected at sponsibility for policy making in educaconstitutional changes in Missouri and Colo large).
In general, dark surfaces that help cover (Continued from page 114)
dirt are being used less and less in school older school buildings sometimes indicates buildings. Ample illumination and light a lack of awareness of the importance of
surfaces are important factors in school sanitation in school buildings. Likewise,
sanitation. Some principles to observe in many new school buildings protective
are: Prevent dirt accumulations; if present,
Schools as public, or private nonprofit, institutions are not always subject to the same regulations and the same rigid inspections as are applied to some commercial activities and organizations. A few States have set up rigid rating and inspection sys
Every school system should develop for each building a corrective sanitation program. Dirt should be removed as quickly as feasible. Suitable cleaning supplies and tools should be provided. Cleaners should be trained in the principles of and in the practices to be followed in maintaining school buildings. Cleaners or janitors should recognize the close relationship between cleanliness and sanitation. They
should realize that dirt removal eliminates Ill ventilation and an insanitary environment
many of the fertile lodging spots for disfor pupils.
ease germs. They should not be per. sanitation seems to have been neglected.
mitted to use deodorants to cover up odors In too many cases the building funds are limited. The school people want space.
arising from sources that should be re
moved. Sanitary standards should be esSome patrons want to be able to point to a
tablished for each school. Cleaners and beautiful building. The designer with a building workers should be familiar with product to sell may side with the patrons.
these standards and should be held respon. The pupils need protection and service
sible for the conditions found in the buildthey don't vote. A frequent end result is a
ing at all times. There should be an adecheapening of inside surfaces and services
quate follow-up and/or inspection service and, as a result, adequate sanitation is more
that would assure constant compliance with difficult to maintain.
accepted standards. In too many cases monumental facades
Adequate cleaning is essential to high and ornamental trim may hide dank odorous toilet rooms and interior finish that
levels of sanitary services in schools. For cannot be maintained in a sanitary manner. various reasons, school cleaning service is
Undesirable, but still too common, for many The above is not intended as a criticism not always good.
of the Nation's children. of building beauty. However, the school In too many cases the school custodian is
tems for school lunchrooms, kitchens, etc. buildings are erected for the purpose of not a skilled janitor. School custodial
This service does not usually cover other protecting and serving pupils. The build. service was once looked upon as a flunky. phases of school sanitation. The fact that ing should be planned from the inside out. type of occupation and too many of that schools are not subjected to these rigid inThe plant design should have balance.
type of men have been employed. In some spections contributes to the poor service School officials should plan carefully that cases custodians have been employed on a often found. Schools have cherished functhe funds desired for community-sized au
patronage basis and in other places the tional and area autonomy. If schools are to ditoriums, tournament seating capacity for school custodian's position and salary have
have any high degree of autonomy they must gymnasiums, or ornamental trim are not been reserved as a relief or pension for men
accept the responsibility for providing sanobtained by cheapening inside finish and
itary and other essential services. If they the facilities necessary for a satisfactory
unable to perform hard labor. In addi-
do not have the machinery and the skills to sanitation program.
provide such service they should turn the custodians to be trained in their work.' Rough dirt-catching surfaces should be re
job over to someone or some organization duced to a minimum. The men employed had little inclination to
qualified to handle it or go out and secure Floors should be nonabsorbent. seek training since they had no assurance
the technical help and training needed. The Cracks, crevices, and noncoved corners of continued tenure.”
fact that the school is a public organization that might harbor dirt should be elimi.
? Viles, N. E. Improving School Custodial Service. Office does not justify maintaining buildings that nated.
subject pupils to preventable health hazards ing Office, Washington 25, D. C. 15 cents. Wood flooring and wood trim should be
• Phay, John E. Custodian Personne! Administration. Re: every day they attend school. The public well-seasoned and expansion joints
prints from American School Board Journal. March, April, should realize that school sanitation is a
May, June, July, and August, 1948. Milwaukee, Wis., Bruce should be protected from dirt. Publishing Co.
of Education Bulletin 1949, No. 13. U. S. Government Print