Schools Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise in Democracy
- A Cradle of Democracy—The locally-based school board has historically been regarded as a grass-roots expression of American democracy, but critics wonder whether it has outlived its usefulness
- The School Board’s Impact on Student Learning—Laws and regulations in most places give school board’s wide authority over the curriculum, personnel, and various policies, but much of this control can actually be quite hollow.
- Expenditures: Huge and Uneven—Collectively, school boards spend a sum approaching $600 million on the nation’s public schools. Yet, geography is destiny and where children live goes a long way toward determining the extent of support they will receive for their education.
- Jobs, Jobs, Jobs—School systems can function as jobs machines with school boards having vast power over those who get hired and those who get contracts to provide goods and services.
- A School Board’s Key Employee: The Superintendent—Nothing a school board does is more important than hiring the superintendent. Everything flows from that decision.
- Teachers: The Heart of the Enterprise—The practices of teachers are crucial to student outcomes. The relationship between teacher and student, though, is very much affected by the policies of school boards and negotiated agreements between school boards and teacher unions.
- The Mirage of Local Control—Government at the state and federal levels have been exerting ever greater authority over local school boards, a trend that has been accelerated by the Obama administration.
- The Special Burden of Special Education—Washington’s requirement that disabled students receive a free and appropriate education—a humane mandate, to be sure--has pushed local school boards to the fiscal limit and exacted a price from non-handicapped students.
- The Inner Workings of School Boards—The main responsibility of any school board, anywhere in the country, is governance, a task that boards carry out with varying degrees of effectiveness.
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Work of School Boards—Some of the nation’s school boards perform in exemplary fashion, while others fail the students and the community.
- Accepting Responsibility—Every constituency associated with the public schools, including the school board, should be accountable for outcomes. Yet, frequently the students, the weakest link in the chain, are often the only ones held accountable for their performance.
- Other Ways to Govern Schools—Could it be that school boards are not essential in an age of vouchers, charter schools, mayoral control, state takeovers, and other methods of school governance?
- Do School Boards Have a Future?—The big question revolves around the future of school boards in an era of criticism, questionable outcomes, and alternatives for governance.