AZ Statutes – School Policies – How They’re Made?

Ever wondered how state law finally becomes regulation at a school administrative level??  Below is a general outline of just how that happens.

The flow is generally stated as:  From Arizona Law (Statute), to Policy.  From Policy to Regulation.  From Regulation to Enforcement.

1. The Arizona Legislature establishes a new law that often addresses a particular aspect in a relatively general sense.  While the issue can be somewhat specific, the general nature of the law typically allows for school districts to figure out for themselves how the law is to be followed.  For example:  All superintendent contracts that renewed after July 29, 2010 are required to have a contractual component that ties salary compensation to specific performance metrics.  This is similar to the requirement the AZ legislature put in place that all school districts implement similar contractual aspects that tie student performance to salary compensation for teachers by 2012.  While these requirements are somewhat specific, what is general about them is that school districts are able to decide what is best for the district in meeting these requirements.  The legislature put together a suggested outline for how these requirements could be met in order that districts can not only be compliant with the law, but aid them in creating the criteria.  GPS has chosen to implement a different criteria than that set by the legislature.

2. Policies are put in place that address statutory and constitutional requirements.  Policies are where the rubber begins to meet the road.  Many school districts subscribe to the Arizona School Board Association as they have a policy division which keeps an eye on legislative requirements and in conjunction with folks at the state capitol, crafts policy that meets legal requirements.  These policies are then submitted to all ASBA members for consideration and adoption.  GPS policies are largely in direct synchronization with ASBA suggestions with very little difference.

School board members are primarily involved in THIS area.  School board members are the tie between constitutional and statutory mandates and administrative regulation.  Thus, school board members function administratively at the highest level and keep a focus on district-wide issues while remaining relatively uninvolved in specifics with individual campuses.  District-wide policies, budgetary issues, curriculum, and district employee staffing are all general concerns the board addresses.  Specific policies also address the need for certain individual issues to be heard by the school board as well.  Field-trips, extreme student disciplinary measures (expulsion), and other types of issues are also heard.

3. Regulation – This component is almost 100% delegated to the school administration and is truly where the rubber meets the road for enforcement.  Succinctly stated, regulation is the logistical way policy is enforced.  A policy regarding anti-bullying, or drug possession may be referenced.  Regulation includes but is not limited to the actual training to principals for communications in such situations, how to deal with the situation, and potentially… where some subjective judgment is allowed within the policy itself, some further clarification.

Thus, when a parent has a concern to be addressed, one of the ways to get to the heart of what can be done about the concern is whether the decisions are based on regulation, policy, or statute.  If regulation, the issue rests largely with the school administration.  This is likely to cover the vast majority of individual issues.  If the issue is based on policy, then the school board should most certainly be involved and the concerns heard by the board.  If the issue is statutory, it is perhaps good to keep the school board informed, yet there is nothing the board can do on this issue as the situation must be addressed by the state legislature and corrected or modified via new legislation.

Considerations must be made on what level of management an issue should be addressed.  Far too often emotional issues will spiral out of control and well-intentioned citizens will petition their state legislature for new laws that could more easily and more appropriately been addressed at a more local level such as the school board or school administration.  From situations such as these and the creation of new laws, government tends only to get bigger, less efficient, and less productive. strongly suggests that parents and engaged citizens petition their individual school administrators first, then appeal to the school board of their local district next in addressing an issue.  Engaging the media can be a powerful motivation for an issue to be heard, but not recommended as a first option.  Organizing parents with similar concerns is also very powerful in persuasive argument.  State legislation should be reserved as a last resort, for rarely are individual issues found in existence state-wide.

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