A Few Discouraging Words

While school board candidates are in Hills for a forum tonight, I thought I’d share a few discouraging words about school boards.

Not Much Confidence in School Boards

From The Gallup Blog, reporting that administrators have little confidence in their governing boards:

The results are similar for superintendents of K-12 districts. Only 3% of superintendents strongly agree that school boards in the U.S. are well governed, while 37% strongly agree their own boards are well governed, according to a Gallup-Education Week Superintendent Panel survey.

Ouch.  School boards are viewed even less favorably than Congress.

I won’t hazard a guess about how local administrators may feel about their school boards, but I can’t get on board with the author’s disdain for election of school board members by popular vote.

The Only Kid You Can Save Is Your Own

Slate had an article last week about people choosing private schools for their kids being somewhat just shy of murder-bad.  The article wasn’t worth reading, but it spawned an interesting–and lengthy–comment thread over at Apt. 11d, which turned at times to the likelihood of parents being able to meaningfully change their neighborhood public schools for the better and school boards.  A sample of comments from the thread:

Hush: Middle class parents want power and connections? Get elected to the local school board. It’s still no guarantee.

Cranberry: Local school board members are also limited by laws and contracts. They hire/fire the superintendent, and set the budget. That’s about it. Setting policy does not mean they oversee how their policies are implemented. A school board member in our state had to FOIA records from her own school.

Amy P.: That’s exactly right. Both my dad and my uncle were on our town school board when I was in school, and that was precisely their experience as well. After he’d done his time, my dad said that what he’d learned from it was that the only kid you can save is yours.

I think this is a major structural weakness of the public school system, that everybody within it feels powerless, and whoever you are, it feels like everybody else has more power than you do (the teachers, the parents, the kids, the principals, the superintendent, the school board, the voters who turned down the last levy, etc). Moving a school system can feel like pushing a shopping cart with a couple of broken wheels. The nice thing about a private school is that the administration can figure out where they want to go, and then everybody who wants the same thing can hop aboard.

On that note: Thanks to the candidates for taking the time to run and publicly debate the issues.  For the rest of us–if you choose to vote, choose well, don’t expect too much, and however the election turns out, don’t feel bad about doing what is right for your own kids.

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