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View Diary: Are Elected School Boards A Good Idea? (42 comments)

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  •  These are the classic arguments... (5+ / 0-)

    that were used back in the late 1990s to get control of several major city's school boards into the hands of their mayors or other (higher) elected officials. They all have appointed school boards or other controlling bodies (Philadelphia has a "School Reform Commission".) Here's the list, as far as I know it (though there are probably more than this):
    Jackson, MS
    Boston
    Chicago
    Baltimore
    Cleveland
    Harrisburg, PA
    Philadelphia
    New York (city)
    Providence, RI
    Los Angeles

    Notice that all these places have in common the fact that their schools are still in very bad shape and these appointed school boards show no better ability to fix them than anyone else. Some of these cities (Harrisburg and Philadelphia, for instance) don't even have their own mayors really controlling the school boards, since state officials (the governor, in the two cases above) make the majority of the appointments to these boards. So the idea that somehow this is going to "eliminate politics" from school decisions is silly; it just makes the politics less responsive to the public and more open to corruption and shady dealing. Rahm and the Chicago schools are a prime example, with the mayor shifting money and focus as fast as he can to his friends in the for-profit education industry.

    We are another example of what happens under this system in Philly, where we have a huge budget deficit caused by the recently-departed Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, appointed by the School Reform Commission and responsible for directly converting over 50 public schools into charter schools without even the consent of the parents and children involved. Much of the former problem stems from the latter action. Yet, though Ackerman herself was essentially fired for the budget problem, we still have almost exactly the same body of Commissioners who hired her and have now hired her replacement. No one in Philly has any real say on how our schools are run in any sense, not even through the indirect means of voting for mayor.

    This is the problem: while it may look less efficient, the only way to prevent the wholesale dismantling of our public school systems is to keep publicly elected school boards. While I do have some affinity for the idea of a purely professional system of education, a la most European countries, the chance that we'll get that in the generally anti-government environment of the United States is virtually nil.

    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

    by Stwriley on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:16:22 AM PDT

    •  I think the opposite is true. (0+ / 0-)
      This is the problem: while it may look less efficient, the only way to prevent the wholesale dismantling of our public school systems is to keep publicly elected school boards.
      A lot of wingnut organizations would throw a lot money into a big city school board elections to get enough members to approve privatization.

      Repubs started up the car, hit the throttle and sent it over the cliff, and now they're complaining that the black guy hasn't fixed it fast enough.

      by Bush Bites on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:37:46 AM PDT

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      •  But they could also (5+ / 0-)

        Throw money to a mayoral election to get one who's for privatization.

        I don't think the level going up a notch is a solution. If anything at least you have a multiplicity of independent voices. It's harder to fix an independent board than an appointed board.

      •  But this way, they just have to buy one person... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stwriley, elfling

        ...who is a lot harder for an organized group of angry citizens to unseat—rather than a number of people, each of whom serves a smaller segment of the city where neighborhood organization and activism could make a difference.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 06:19:09 AM PDT

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      •  Virtually every tactic... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling

        being used by the for-profit education industry to wedge themselves into new school districts is based on by-passing elected school boards. Appointed boards were the original solution, but that only worked in larger cities where forcing out the elected boards could be portrayed as a reform measure. That didn't work for most suburban or rural districts.

        The current tactic being pushed by the very same "reformers" is the "parent trigger" law nonsense. These laws are essentially designed to by-pass elected boards and force the "choice" on parents of choosing which charter company takes over their school (unless they do it themselves, which is both difficult in itself and impossible for many parents in the working and middle classes because of time/work constraints.) This tactic, being based on state law and tied to ever increasing testing standards that pretty much guarantee that only the very top schools won't pull the "trigger", is being pushed by the for-profit ed firms to enable them to make the inroads into suburban districts that they have been largely denied by their elected school boards (no matter who sits on them.)

        It's relatively easy to get rid of an elected school board member if they prove to be a nut-job; their terms tend to be only a year or two and they don't have the resources (generally) to hide large-scale malfeasance. When wingnuts have tried the take-over tactic, they've usually been shown the door relatively soon thereafter. But these appointed boards are hives of cronyism and corruption because they do not answer to the voters and can't be held accountable by them no matter what they do, while they can easily profit themselves from aiding the for-profit ed industry.

        Compared to having to fight a few fundamentalists from time to time in public school board elections, stopping the wholesale looting of one of the greatest strengths of our democracy seems to me to have a bit higher priority.

        Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

        by Stwriley on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 07:18:47 AM PDT

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