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Education has always been used as a political tool, but recently it seems the laws and policies surrounding K-12 education — particularly in public schools — have changed more than ever. Many school districts have developed new policies to improve some of the archaic structures in place. However, as authors Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric from the American Enterprise Institute note, “even good policies fail if they are poorly implemented, and it is hard to evaluate a policy’s merit if it is not implemented well…time and again we see policies fail because of a lack of attention to the day-to-day issues that affect education leaders’ ability to turn words on a page into reality inside schools.”

Informed knowledge of education law is critical for the success of schools as it enables educational leaders to create policies, manage resources and develop programs that align with legal requirements. As educational leaders and administrators, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of laws and policies that impact schools and student learning.

Addressing Gaps in Communication

There is often a miscommunication between principals and supervisors and school boards regarding policymaking. To see the implementation of new laws through, it falls on the shoulders of educational leaders to scrutinize the laws and implement them as much as possible. Programs such as Mississippi College’s Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership – K-12 Administration track online program focus on understanding state and national policies, laws and standards, meeting the SLLA standard of “understanding, responding to and influencing the political, social, legal and cultural contexts” of a school. The program’s Legal Structures & Legal Issues course, specifically, provides education professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the legal landscape successfully.

Relevant Education Laws Administrators Must Know

There are several laws and policies that K-12 educational leaders should be aware of, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title IX. ESEA is a successor to the No Child Left Behind policy, which “shined a light on where students were making progress and where they needed additional support, regardless of race, income, zip code, disability, home language, or background.” It provides financial assistance to states and school districts to improve academic achievement among disadvantaged students.

IDEA is a law that “makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.” Title IX is one of the laws under the umbrella of Civil Rights, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity receiving federal funding.

Plenty of other federal laws and regulations can be consulted on the U.S. Department of Education website. Due to the 10th Amendment, however, most laws concerning education are decided at a state level. For example, each state has its own laws and guidelines for teacher certification, graduation requirements, school accountability, safety and resource allocation.

Weathering Other Changes

Of course, the reality is more challenging than the theory. Aside from base laws, professionals in the area have to deal with a myriad of changes every school year. As Derrick Meador observes in his ThoughtCo. article, “In recent years schools, administrators, and educators have been bombarded with well-intended legislation. […] With so many changes, it has been almost impossible to do any one thing well. Legislation at any level must be rolled out in a balanced approach. Trying to implement a plethora of legislative mandates makes it almost impossible to give any measure a chance to be successful.”

Despite these challenges, it’s still possible for educational leaders to focus on the children and create safe, equitable and engaging learning environments for all students. Graduates of Mississippi College’s online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership – K-12 Administration program will be prepared to lead schools with foundational knowledge in educational policy and law.

Learn more about Mississippi College’s online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership – K-12 Administration track program.

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