Public School Policies

From unions to vouchers, school budgets to discipline policies, we cover some of the most controversial issues affecting public schools today. Learn more about education reform and how it impacts your family. Keep current on the latest controversies regarding religion, sex-education, civil rights and more.
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Updated June 17, 2017 |
Public Schools and Sex Education
Learn about sex education in public schools and the ongoing debate about federal support.
According to statistics compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, the US has “one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world—almost twice as high as those of England, Wales and Canada, and eight times as high as those of the Netherlands and Japan.” Because of the rising pregnancy rates among teens, in addition to the rising rates of sexual activity among teens, both parents and public schools are exploring the best sex education programs to benefit students.
While sex education has historically brought forth great tension and debate between schools and communities, National Public Radio asserts that “providing effective sex education can seem daunting because it means tackling potentially sensitive issues. However, because sex education comprises many individual activities, which take place across a wide range of settings and periods of time, there are lots of opportunities to contribute.”
The Debate of Sex Education in Public Schools
While some Americans express mixed opinions on how public schools should teach sex education courses, National Public Radio (NPR) reports that the once heated debate over whether or not schools should even teach teens about sex has now dwindled: “A new poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government finds that only 7 percent of Americans say sex education should not be taught in schools. Moreover, in most places there is even little debate about what kind of sex education should be taught, although there are still pockets of controversy.”
According to
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Updated December 21, 2017 |
Class Size: State Regulation of Class Size
Learn how various states regulate maximum class sizes.
The class size debate is an ongoing controversy concerning whether smaller class size corresponds with higher academic achievement. Numerous studies have been conducted, with conflicting results. Federal funding for class size reduction has been inconsistent. A 1999 federal program designed specifically to fund class size reduction was repealed by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The inconclusive results from the studies of class size reduction leave education policymakers to decide whether reducing class sizes should be a state priority in school reform. This article discusses some of the approaches states have used to regulate class size, whether current budget shortages or other changing conditions may have an unintended impact on class size initiatives, and what parents can do with respect to their child's class sizes.
State Laws Limiting Class Size
Notwithstanding the ongoing debate over the pros and cons of reducing class sizes, a number of states have embraced the policy of class size reduction. States have approached class size reduction in a variety of ways. Some have started with pilot programs rather than state-wide mandates. Some states have specified optimum class sizes while other states have enacted mandatory maximums. Some states have limited class size reduction initiatives to certain grades or certain subjects.
Here are three examples of the diversity of state law provisions respecting class size reduction.
California – The state of California became a leader in promoting class size reduction in 1996 when it commenced a large-scale class size reduction program with the
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Updated July 02, 2017 |
Smaller Class Sizes: Pros and Cons
Do smaller class sizes make a difference? We look at both sides of the issue.
Common sense suggests that public school children will do better in smaller classes than in larger classes. Smaller class sizes provide the opportunity for personal attention and additional instructional help when necessary. Yet, whether smaller class sizes boost academic achievement has been examined in numerous studies with mixed results. This article examines how class size affects academic performance, where smaller class size can have the greatest impact, and how some critics question the benefits and cost effectiveness of class size reduction.
Advantages of Reducing Class Size
Photo by By Jens Rötzsch (Jens Rötzsch) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Several studies have shown that reducing class size increases overall student achievement, especially for younger, disadvantaged children. The following are some of the benefits of fewer students in a classroom.
  1. Students receive more individualized attention and interact more with the teacher.
  2. Teachers have more flexibility to use different instructional approaches.
  3. Fewer students are less distracting to each other than a large group of children.
  4. Teachers have more time to teach because there are fewer discipline problems.
  5. Students are more likely to participate in class and become more involved.
  6. Teachers have more time to cover additional material and use more supplementary texts and enrichment activities.
As a practical matter, it is not possible for most public schools to hire enough teachers so that all classes in grades kindergarten through 12th grade have no more than, for example, 18 students. Given finite resources to hire new teachers, judgments
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Updated May 31, 2017 |
Class Size: Federal Funding of Class Size Reduction
Learn about how class size reduction is funded on the federal level.
Studies show that students, especially younger minority and disadvantaged children, perform better when they are in classes with 19 or fewer students. Class size reduction is often embraced by elected officials because it is a popular subject with teachers and parents. There are also studies demonstrating that class size reduction is either not beneficial or not cost effective compared to other school reforms. This article discusses the education policy of the federal government concerning class size reduction.

Before NCLB

In 1999, a Class Size Reduction (CSR) program was added to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The goal of the CSR program was to improve educational achievement by reducing class size with fully qualified teachers. Special attention was focused on class size reduction in the early elementary grades to 18 or fewer students. To accomplish the class size reduction goal, the program sought to fund the hiring of 100,000 fully-qualified teachers for grades kindergarten through third grade within seven years. The appropriations were $1.2 billion in 1999, $1.3 billion in 2000, and $1.623 billion in 2001. The CSR program was only in effect from 1999 to 2001. In its first two years, 37,000 teachers were hired.

The use of funds under the CSR program was restricted to activities that would lead directly to hiring and training qualified teachers. Local school districts were permitted to use funds under the CSR program for: 1) recruiting, training, and hiring fully qualified teachers; 2) testing the academic content knowledge of newly-hired teachers and
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Updated July 25, 2017 |
Understanding No Child Left Behind
You may have heard of No Child Left Behind, but might be confused as to what it means to you and how it affects your children's education. This report will explain what No Child Left Behind is, why it was created, and how your child can benefit from it. It will also discuss some potential controversies surrounding the legislation.
On the 12th birthday of No Child Left Behind, many are still wondering what this federal law is and how it effects the education of their children today. While NCLB is now thick in the reform process, confusion continues over how to alter education policies for the best interest of the students they were designed to teach. The first step is to understand what No Child Left Behind is, why it was created, and how your child may continue benefit from it. It will also discuss some potential controversies surrounding the legislation and reasons why reform appears so hard to come by. 
What Is No Child Left Behind?
No Child Left Behind was first introduced as House Resolution 1 during the 107th Congress in March of 2001. The No Child Left Behind Act aimed to ensure that all students, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, would have the opportunity for a solid education. President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in January of 2002. 
Photo by Executive Office of the President of the United States, [Public domain], via Wikipedia Commons 

No Child Left Behind is a bipartisan effort. The act passed with support from democrats and republicans alike and a bipartisan commission was created in 2006 to review No Child Left Behind, its promises and its problems. This commission provided Congress
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Public School Policies

Education Reform

Education reform is in the works, and you can stay updated on the latest changes, debates, and policies here. Learn more about No Child Left Behind and how it impacts your child. Explore how federal and state government is working to improve school performance, student achievement and education standards.

Teachers and Unions

A comprehensive look at teachers, tenure, and unions. Learn how unions impact school performance. Explore the impact of education reform on teaching qualification standards, traditional unions and controversial tenure rules.

Public School Budgets

We offer an overview of public school budgets; where the money comes from, how it’s spent and what schools are doing to get more funding. Learn how schools are cutting budgets and how the cuts will impact your child. Delve into some of the creative ways school districts are trying to raise money and where the extra money is spent.


Explore both sides of the school voucher debate. Learn what your options are, how those choices are funded and the impact on your local school district. From the latest government initiatives to results from recent studies, explore vouchers and the options they provide.

School Discipline Policies

Examine the various discipline methods being put to use in public schools. From detention to expulsion, spanking to handcuffing, school discipline can often be controversial. Does spanking work? Do police belong in schools? Learn more about what is being done to punish out of control students.

School Controversies

The most controversial issues impacting public school students today. From bullying to book bans, this is a comprehensive look at some of the most oft-debated issues. This section features articles on school segregation, religion, over-crowding, civil rights, and green technology.