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Local Control - Districts and Counties

Information on the local responsibility granted to school districts and county education officials.

Although the California public schools system is under the policy direction of the Legislature, more local responsibility is legally granted to school districts and county education officials than to other government entities and officials.

Statutes relating to school districts, county boards of education, and county superintendents of schools operate differently from any other California statutes. Because the plenary power to make state policy and law rests with the Legislature, the general rule of law is that an agency of government is permitted to do only that which is authorized by statute; it cannot undertake any program or activity simply because it is not prohibited. In 1972, however, the voters amended the California Constitution. As a result, the general rule has been altered only for school districts. Thus, laws relating to local schools occupy a unique constitutional position.

Under this “permissive education code,” as long as a statute does not prohibit a program or activity and it is consistent with the purposes for which school districts are established, it can be undertaken. In other words, it is constitutionally unnecessary to enact any statutes that merely allow or permit school districts, at their discretion, to do something.

Questions:   California Department of Education | 916-319-0800
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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