The State Government's Role in Public Education

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  • 0:01 Government & Education
  • 0:52 Roles
  • 2:10 Common Tasks
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

In order to provide free and quality education to all students, the state government has specific roles and duties that it performs. Watch this lesson to find out how the state government shapes public education in America.

Government and Education

Have you ever thought about how decisions about schools are made? For example, who decides what classes have to be taken in order to graduate? Who decides which teachers are qualified to teach?

In America, public education, or free schooling that is open to the public, is regulated by three different government entities. The federal government offers little input into schools, though it provides funding that they can put strings on.

On the opposite end, the local government offers a lot of input and deals with specific day-to-day teaching decisions in a small, local area. And somewhere in the middle, the state government offers some input and helps guide education in each state.

Let's take a closer look at the roles and tasks of state governments in public education in America.


As we've seen, the federal government has mostly a hands-off approach to schools, while local governments are very hands on. Somewhere in the middle is the state government, which guides education without making specific decisions about day-to-day operations.

How does the state government do that? There are three specific roles that the state government plays in education. You can remember these with the acronym 'PAL.'

P is for 'policymaker.' One of the major things that the state government does is to set policy to guide schools and districts within the state. For example, the state government might set standards for what should be accomplished at each grade level.

A is for 'advocate.' Another major role that state government plays in education is as an advocate, ensuring that schools are providing a quality education for all students. For example, the state government usually establishes statewide assessments to hold educators accountable for students' learning.

L is for 'liaison.' The state government also acts as a liaison between educators and the public and politicians. For example, when the public votes to change educational policy in a state, it is the state government that actually changes the policy to reflect what the new law in the state is.

Common Tasks

So the state government takes on three major roles in education: that of policymaker, advocate, and liaison. But how, exactly, does the government play these roles? What are some of the common tasks that fall to the state government?

Every state is different, but there are some tasks that generally fall under the scope of the state government in education. They include:

1. Setting statewide curriculum and standards

The state government usually sets standards for each grade in the state. They might say, for example, that all eighth graders should take basic algebra.

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