The phrase “public schooling” appears to constantly evolve and change making it difficult to define the term which has largely become an oratorical device used to reference a wide array of assumptions American politicians and society utilize in referencing the educational system within the United States. Recent developments in the educational system such as charter schools, on-line education, and voucher programs which enable participants to use public monies to pay tuition at sectarian schools and tuition tax credits for private schools are developments that make it difficult for educators to clearly define the parameters of the term public education. This essay defines the attributes of public education as directed by the California Department of Education and the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
Clinchy (2004) defined public education as “a school created, operated, and largely paid for by the citizens of each community through a locally elected board of education (p. 448). The forefathers of the United States designated in the Constitution that the basic sovereignty of education be left in control of individual states and although federal and state monies designated for schools has increased significantly over the years the conventional control at the local state level has managed to remain unscathed. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the importance of local control in 1973 when it issued the majority opinion in the San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez decision:
In an era that has witnessed a consistent trend toward centralization of the functions of government; local sharing of responsibility for public education has survived. The merit of local control was recognized in both the majority and dissenting opinions in Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia. Mr. Justice Stewart stated there that “direct control over decisions vitally affecting the education of one’s children is a need that is strongly felt in our society.” The Chief Justice in his dissent agreed that local control is not only vital to continued public support of the schools, but it is of overriding importance from an educational standpoint as well.
The persistence of attachment to government at its lowest level where education is concerned reflects the depth of commitment of its supporters. In part local control means…the freedom to devote more money to the education of one’s children. Equally important, however, is the opportunity it offers for participation in the decision-making process that determines how those local dollars will be spent. Each locality is free to tailor local programs to local needs. Pluralism also affords some opportunity for experimentation, innovation, and a healthy competition for educational excellence. An analogy to the Nation-State relationship in our federal system seems uniquely appropriate. Mr. Justice Brandeis identified as one of peculiar strengths of our form of government each state’s freedom to...