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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Strengthen School Board Authority

A new bill focused on asserting the autonomy of local school boards and regulating the actions of the federal education department was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. The Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act is, no surprise, supported by the National School Boards Association, or NSBA.

The bill was introduced by two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois and Rep. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania. It would establish steps that the federal education department would need to take before creating new policies and "ensure that the U.S. Department of Education's actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level," according to a press release from the NSBA. The bill would also aim to communicate to Congress how federal policies impact local districts.

Thomas Gentzel, the NSBA's executive director, said that his organization hopes to restore the eroded authority of local school board members, who are, he emphasized, elected officials. While there has always been a "healthy tension" between local, state, and federal authority, he said, "we're very concerned with the long slide over a number of years toward a diminishing role for local school officials and increasing role for state and federal officials."

The American Association of School Administrators also supports and will advocate for the legislation, said Dan Domenech, the AASA's executive director. "The local school board and the superintendent still need to have the flexibility and authority to do what's best for kids," he said.

"The further you get away from the district, the less people know you," Domenech said. "There are huge differences from district to district."

It's unclear how much traction the bill will get, as neither of the lawmakers are on the House's education committee.

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