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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

School districts 'are not subdivisions' of the Florida education department, officials remind



Florida parents often turn to the state Department of Education for guidance or decisions when things aren't going their way in local schools.

They contact department officials on issues as wide ranging as testing and discipline. Quite often, the parents walk away frustrated.

Their districts blame the Legislature for laws they must follow and the department for its rules and definitions. State leaders says it's up to the districts to interpret and implement the laws and rules.

The DOE's Office of Inspector General lays out that the state's laws and Constitution lay the groundwork for this repeated scenario. Bottom line: School Boards are separate constitutional entities, not directly supervised by the state administration.

Here's how the OIG explained the situation, responding to a Pasco County parent's complaint about perceived unfairness in student punishments and a lack of due process:

Under the state constitution, local school boards are charged with the power and authority to operate, control and supervise the public schools within the district (Article IX, Section 4, Florida Constitution). Thus, local school boards have the authority to determine the policies deemed necessary for the operation of the school district and the schools within the district. Examples of the power of school boards include the power to open and close schools, and appoint and dismiss school personnel (Sections 1001.41, 1001.42 and 1001.42, Florida Statutes). The people of a district have direct control over the local school board through the election process.

School districts are not subdivisions of the Department of Education, and we do not possess general supervisory control over the decisions of local school boards within areas allotted to them constitutionally. In contrast to the power of local school boards to control public schools, the functions of the Department of Education and State Board of Education are to establish policy for the state system of public education, such as establishing educational objectives and long range plans (Sections 1001.01, 1001.02, 1001.03 and 1001.10, Florida Statutes); and to serve as the conduit for state funding of schools (Chapters 1010 and 1011, Florida Statutes).

Just something to reflect on, next time you get caught up in the system and aren't sure where to turn.

[Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2016 10:51am]


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