Many American parents are concerned that they are not getting their tax dollars’ worth for primary and secondary education here in the USA. They are proud of their schools, but they think they can do much better.
Education in the USA is strictly a local matter. There is no national education curriculum for students. Each of the 50 states has an education department and that department does have the authority to set up broad guidelines for curriculum; however, it is up to each individual school board to develop the process for implementing that curriculum.
Each local school board has absolute authority for education. They assess and collect the taxes that fund education for their district. They construct buildings and maintain them. They hire the educators, administrators and support staff for the schools. They decide which textbooks to buy and how often to buy them. They purchase supplies for all the kids and make them available as needed. The school board is locally elected by all voters residing within the boundaries of the district.
Because of the way the school year falls, most elections dealing with the school board or with tax questions relating to the schools are not held at the same time as other elections. This means that the turnout for school-related issues are normally very light and that elections can be influenced by a small committed block of voters. Due to these circumstances, many states are revising how schools are funded, how much money can be allocated to a school district by local voters, and how can school administration be held accountable for any lack of attainment of specific goals.
In many states now, school districts have a limit as to how much they can collect locally for their schools. The local school tax is usually a tax on the value of a home or other real property. Additional funding for schools is distributed by the state education department and is usually a fixed amount per student. The national average is about $9,000 per student.
Each year students in grades 4/5, 7/8, and 11 usually have to take an exam to demonstrate their proficiency in the core subjects: math, science, reading, and writing. These exams are meant to gage how effectively the students are being taught. If a school does not have a certain pass rate, it can be given more scrutiny in the coming year. In fact, the state may come in and take over a school district and eliminate local control until passing levels are raised.