Creating an exhaustive, detailed list of the duties of a local board of education would be an overwhelming task! The following information is intended to give an overview of the many important functions that a local board of education serves.
As a member of a local board of education in North Carolina, there are several overarching points to keep in mind when considering board duties:
- The North Carolina Constitution explicitly guarantees the right to a free public education. Article I, Section 15 states, “The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.” The constitution also requires the General Assembly to “provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools . . . wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.”
- Despite the constitutional language regarding “equal opportunities,” not all North Carolina children enjoy precisely the same educational opportunities as other North Carolina children in different circumstances. The State provides funds in a way intended to meet the necessary operating expenses for the Basic Education Program. However, the North Carolina Constitution also permits the General Assembly to assign to local governments “such responsibility for the financial support of the free public schools as it may deem appropriate” and guarantees local governments the right to supplement the basic level of State support. Because some counties are more able or willing than others to use local tax money to supplement state funds, disparities exist among the resources available to school units.
- In 1997, in Leandro v. State of North Carolina, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the state constitutional language guarantees students the opportunity to receive a sound basic education, which is one that provides students with “at least:
(1) sufficient ability to read, write, and speak the English language and a sufficient knowledge of fundamental mathematics and physical science to enable the student to function in a complex and rapidly changing society;
(2) sufficient fundamental knowledge of geography, history, and basic economic and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices with regard to issues that affect the student personally or affect the student’s community, state, and nation;
(3) sufficient academic and vocational skills to enable the student to successfully engage in post-secondary education or vocational training; and
(4) sufficient academic and vocational skills to enable the student to compete on an equal basis with others in further formal education or gainful employment in contemporary society.” Leandro, 346 N.C. 336, 347 (1997).
- In 2015, the General Assembly passed legislation that explicitly states that:
“It shall be the duty of local boards of education to provide students with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education and to make all policy decisions with that objective in mind, including employment decisions, budget development, and other administrative actions …” N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-47(1) (emphasis added).
In general, a board’s primary duties include:
- Providing every child with the opportunity to receive a “sound basic education” during a minimum of 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction covering at least nine calendar months;
- Setting educational policy within the limits of its authority and overseeing the implementation of its policies and the state’s educational program;
- Making decisions about the superintendent’s personnel recommendations;
- Managing the financial affairs of the unit; and
- Providing adequate school facilities.
The operation of the public schools is governed by Chapter 115C of the North Carolina General Statutes, in addition to various other state statutes addressing specific topics, such as open meetings and public records. Chapter 115C includes a general grant of authority to local boards, which states:
“All powers and duties conferred and imposed by law respecting public schools, which are not expressly conferred and imposed upon some other official, are conferred and imposed upon local boards of education. Said boards of education shall have general control and supervision of all matters pertaining to the public schools in their respective administrative units and they shall enforce the school law in their respective units.” N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-36.
The General Statutes also include more specific grants of authority in various areas.