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Public school district (United States)

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Education policy in the U.S.
Public education in the U.S.
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Charter schools in the U.S.
Higher education in the U.S.
State public education information
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Glossary of education terms
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A public school district is a geographical unit for the local administration of elementary or secondary schools. It is a special-purpose government entity that can be administered independently, or be dependent on the local government, such as a city or county.[1] There are approximately 13,800 public school districts in the United States. These districts collectively educate approximately 55.2 million students.[2]


In most school districts, the school board is at the top of its organizational hierarchy. The board provides oversight and governance for a district and its schools. Below the school board is the superintendent of schools, followed by executive officials or assistant superintendents who lead various departments within the district's bureaucracy. A school principal manages the daily operations of a given school and reports to the district's superintendent.


School board

See also: School board

A board of education, board of directors, school board or school committee is the title given to the governing body of a school district. The authority of school boards differ among districts and states. School boards are responsible for the appointment and dismissal of the district superintendent, to whom they delegate the routine operations of the district. Some school boards may have the authority to set and levy tax rates, recommend measures to a legislative body or be involved in personnel decisions.


A superintendent, chief education officer or chief executive officer is the head administrative official of a school district. They provide administrative oversight of the students, public schools and educational services within their district. Superintendents are most often hired by the district's school board. In many states, superintendents also serve as non-voting members on the board. The superintendent is responsible for keeping the board informed of events and developments in the district and for making recommendations about changes to daily district operations.


This is the organizational chart for Atlanta Public Schools, which demonstrates an example of a school district's organizational structure: APS organization chart.jpg


School district maps in Monroe County, Pennsylvania

Consolidated school district

A consolidated or reorganized school district indicates that it was formed from two or more districts.

Elementary school district

Elementary school districts educate students who are at lower grade or age levels.

Independent school district

Independent school districts can take different forms depending on the state. In Texas, independent denotes that the district is separate from any county or municipal-level entity. Similarly, in Kentucky, independent districts are separate from county districts. In Minnesota, independent denotes any school district created since July 1, 1957.[3]

Intermediate school district

An intermediate school district is a government agency usually organized at the county or multi-county level that assists local school districts in providing programs and services. These districts operate outside the charter of a local school district. The exact role of these agencies varies by state.

Joint school district

A joint school district denotes that the district includes territory from more than one county. A joint state school district means that the district includes territory from more than one state.

Secondary school district

Secondary school districts educate students who are at higher grade or age levels. These are also known as high school districts.

Traditional school district

A traditional school district is an agency responsible for providing free public education for school-age children residing within its jurisdiction. This category excludes local supervisory unions that provide management services for a group of associated school districts; regional education service agencies that typically provide school districts with research, testing and data processing services; state and federally operated school districts; and other agencies that do not fall into these groupings.[4]

Unified school district

A unified school district is a district that provides both elementary and secondary education services and instruction.[4]


Federal, state and local governments contribute to the funding of school districts in the United States. States typically provide about 43 percent of all elementary and secondary education funding. Local governments generally contribute about 44 percent of the total and the federal government contributes about 13 percent of all direct expenditures. Historically, elementary and secondary education was funded largely by local governments, but in the 1970s state education spending began to overtake local education spending.[5]

Federal funding

The federal government spends more than $40 billion annually on primary and secondary education programs. Much of the funding is discretionary, meaning it is set by Congress annually. Funding flows primarily through the U.S. Department of Education, although other federal agencies administer some funding for education related activities.[5]

State funding

States rely primarily on income and sales taxes to fund public education. State legislatures generally determine the level and distribution of funding by following rules and procedures that vary among states. Most states use funding formulas based on student enrollment to determine the allocation of funding for a district. In addition to enrollment figures, some formulas also include additional variables, such as the number of students with disabilities, the number of students living in poverty or the number of students for whom English is a second language.[5]

Local funding

Local governments rely on property taxes support most of public education funding. Local governments collect taxes from residential and commercial properties as a direct revenue source for the school district. Property-rich areas tend to collect more in property taxes. Although poorer communities may use higher tax rates to compensate for the smaller property tax base, they still tend to raise less revenue for their local school districts than wealthier communities.[5]

Top 100 U.S. school districts by enrollment

Largest school districts by enrollment, 2011-2012[6]
District Student enrollment
New York City Department of Education, New York 990,145
Los Angeles Unified School District, California 659,639
Chicago Public Schools, Illinois 403,004
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida 350,239
Clark County School District, Nevada 313,398
Broward County Public Schools, Florida 258,478
Houston Independent School District, Texas 203,066
Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida 197,041
Hawaii State Department of Education 182,706
Orange County Public Schools, Florida 180,000
Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia 177,606
Palm Beach County School District, Florida 176,901
Gwinnett County Public Schools, Georgia 162,370
Dallas Independent School District, Texas 157,575
Shelby County School District, Tennessee 157,375
School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 154,262
Wake County Public School System, North Carolina 148,154
Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland 146,459
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina 141,728
San Diego Unified School District, California 131,044
Duval County Public Schools, Florida 125,429
Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland 123,833
Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, Texas 107,960
Cobb County School District, Georgia 107,291
Baltimore County Public Schools, Maryland 105,153
Pinellas County Schools, Florida 103,776
Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky 99,191
Northside Independent School District, Texas 98,110
DeKalb County School District, Georgia 98,088
Polk County Public Schools, Florida 96,070
Albuquerque Public Schools, New Mexico 94,318
Fulton County Schools, Georgia 92,604
Austin Independent School District, Texas 86,528
Jeffco Public Schools, Colorado 85,793
Baltimore City Public School System, Maryland 84,212
Lee County School District, Florida 83,895
Long Beach Unified School District, California 83,691
Fort Worth Independent School District, Texas 83,109
Prince William County Public Schools, Virginia 81,937
Denver Public Schools, Colorado 80,890
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Tennessee 80,393
Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin 79,130
Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Maryland 76,303
Fresno Unified School District, California 76,303
Guilford County Schools, North Carolina 74,086
Greenville County School District, South Carolina 72,153
Brevard Public Schools, Florida 71,792
Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Virginia 70,978
Alpine School District, Utah 69,639
Fort Bend Independent School District, Texas 69,449
Davis School District, Utah 69,285
Granite School District, Utah 69,252
North East Independent School District, Texas 67,439
Detroit Public Schools, Michigan 67,064
Pasco County Schools, Florida 66,659
Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia 65,585
Washoe County School District, Nevada 64,740
Mesa Public Schools, Arizona 64,728
Arlington Independent School District, Texas 64,703
Seminole County Public Schools, Florida 64,344
Aldine Independent School District, Texas 64,300
El Paso Independent School District, Texas 64,214
Douglas County School District, Colorado 63,114
Katy Independent School District, Texas 62,414
Elk Grove Unified School District, California 62,126
Volusia County Schools, Florida 61,524
Mobile County Public Schools, Alabama 61,462
Chesterfield County Public Schools, Virginia 59,200
Knox County Schools, Tennessee 58,639
Garland Independent School District, Texas 58,151
Santa Ana Unified School District, California 57,250
San Francisco Unified School District, California 56,310
Plano Independent School District, Texas 55,659
Boston Public Schools, Massachusetts 55,027
Osceola County School District, Florida 54,783
San Antonio Independent School District, Texas 54,394
San Bernardino City Unified School District, California 54,379
Corona-Norco Unified School District, California 53,467
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, North Carolina 53,340
Capistrano Unified School District, California 53,170
Cumberland County Schools, North Carolina 53,053
Pasadena Independent School District, Texas 52,942
Conroe Independent School District, Texas 52,664
Cherry Creek School District, Colorado 52,655
Lewisville Independent School District, Texas 51,920
Tucson Unified School District, Arizona 51,720
Howard County Public Schools, Maryland 51,555
Clayton County Public Schools, Georgia 51,018
Jordan School District, Utah 50,961
Columbus City Schools, Ohio 50,488
Omaha Public Schools, Nebraska 50,340
Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia 50,009
Brownsville Independent School District, Texas 49,655
Henrico County Public Schools, Virginia 49,654
Wichita Public Schools, Kansas 49,389
Seattle Public Schools, Washington 49,269
Anchorage School District, Alaska 48,765
Garden Grove Unified School District, California 47,999
Sacramento City Unified School District, California 47,940
San Juan City Unified School District, California 47,245

See also

External links