In the U.S, public schools belong to school districts, which are governed by school boards. Each district is an independent special-purpose government, or dependent school systems, under the guidelines of each U.S. state government and local school boards. A school district is a legally separate body corporate and politic. School districts are local governments with powers similar to that of a town or a county including taxation and eminent domain, except in Virginia, whose school divisions have no taxing authority and must depend on another local government (county, city, or town) for funding. Its governing body, which is typically elected by direct popular vote but may be appointed by other governmental officials, is called a school board, board of trustees, board of education, school committee, or the like. This body appoints a superintendent, usually an experienced public school administrator, to function as the district's chief executive for carrying out day-to-day decisions and policy implementations. The school board may also exercise a quasi-judicial function in serious employee or student discipline matters.
School districts in the Midwest and West tend to cross municipal boundaries, while school districts in New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions tend to adhere to city, township, and/or county boundaries. As of 1951 school districts were independent governmental units in 26 states, while in 17 states there were mixes of independent school districts and school districts subordinate to other local governments. In nine states there were only school districts subordinate to local governments.
Not all school systems constitute school districts as distinct bodies corporate. In most Southern states, school systems operate either as an arm of county government, or at least share coextensive boundaries with the state's counties. In Maryland, most school systems are run at the county level, but the Baltimore City system operates separately, at a county-equivalent level. In New York, most school districts are separate governmental units with the power to levy taxes and incur debt, except for the five cities with population over 125,000, where the schools are operated directly by the municipalities. The Hawaii State Department of Education functions as a single statewide school district. This is unique among the states, but the District of Columbia Public Schools operates district public schools in Washington, DC and the Puerto Rico Department of Education operates all public schools in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, thus they also function as single school districts.
Previously areas of the Unorganized Borough of Alaska were not served by school districts, but instead served by schools directly operated by the Alaska Department of Education and by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools. The state schools were transferred to the Alaska State-Operated School System (SOS) after the Alaska Legislature created it in 1971; that agency was terminated in 1975, with its schools transferred to the newly created Alaska Unorganized Borough School District, which was broken apart into twenty-one school districts the following year.
There are various approaches can when making decisions in assigning teachers. The deciding in assigning teachers can occur with the collaboration of human resource staff or decisions from the collaboration with principals and teachers. Although the decisions for teacher assignment can vary base on school districts, there are two most popular approaches that are currently occurring in assigning teachers. The first popular approach is assigning students to teachers based on sharing the same characteristics as their students. For instance, principals assign teachers to students based on academic performance, teachers’ personalities, teachers teaching styles, and teachers’ classroom management skills. During this assignment practices, there are some collaboration with teachers and principals. The second most popular approach is that teachers can be assigned based on their ability to improve students’ standardized test scores. This is identified as “staffing to the test” in which principals observe the influence teachers have on students’ standardized test scores and then strategically move teachers to certain subjects or grades where standardized test are given.
Even though two approaches are used to assign teachers to students, there are some obstacles that principals encounter when making teacher assignment decisions. For instance, one conflict is parents demand that their child be assigned to a specific teacher. The second conflict is that principals need to take into consideration policies, such as tenure or collective bargaining, which can influence teacher assignment practices. Due to these challenges, many have suggested that principals should collaborate with teacher unions in order to address these conflicts.
In Italy, school districts were established in 1974 by the "Provvedimenti Delegati sulla scuola" ("Assigned Laws [to the Government] about the school"). Each district must contain a minimum of 10,000 inhabitants. The national government attempted to link the local schools with local society and culture and local governments. The school districts were dissolved in 2003 by the "legge finanziaria" (law about the government budget) in an attempt to trim the national budget.