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Education Law

Instructional Programming

Contemporary debate on the school curriculum by advocates of a return to the basics, multicultural studies, and a range of educational approaches continues to attract public attention as those advocates press their claims in courts and legislative chambers. With some notable exceptions, courts generally give state legislative and local administrative authorities wide latitude to tailor curriculum to keep abreast of everexpanding concepts of education. In every state, local districts must offer a curriculum that the state prescribes. Because the federal Constitution has delegated the responsibility for public education to the several states, the power of the state legislature over public schools is said to be plenary, limited only by the state constitution and some provisions in the federal Constitution. Accordingly, the local school board selects its curriculum on the basis of the extent of authority delegated by the state. Most state legislatures have chosen to prescribe a small number of course offerings in all public schools in the state, and delegate to local school authorities the balance of authority to control the curriculum. The curricular choices of local school boards might not satisfy some constituents and taxpayers, but displeasure alone will not persuade a court to substitute its judgment for that of a school board. Critics of the local choices pertaining to school curriculum, textbooks, library holdings, and teaching methods generally must take their complaints to their local school board and the state legislature for remedy.

Although the federal government traditionally has not intervened in the local educational process, the debate for the reform of education in the United States has been prevalent. On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (20 U.S.C.A. §§ 6301 et seq.), which promises an effort to reform national educational policy. Like other federal educational legislation, this Act provides funding for a myriad of educational programs. The Act also includes several provisions regarding testing of grade-school students, which is an issue of controversy among educators. Critics claim that standardized testing can cause anxiety among students and that they do not always accurately reflect the students' competencies. Proponents counter that objective testing has long been used to determine the abilities of students and to test the competencies of schools to teach their students effectively.

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