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I springboard on other KOS diarists stuff quite a bit, and a recent one from Downstate Democrat about the school board in Chicago not being elected but appointed by the Mayor kicked me into writing this. Now I have to admit, in the case he discusses at I can definitely see his point and agree with his concerns.....


You see I think that the American way of democratizing as much as possible, from the appointment of sheriffs and judges who enforce the laws to school county and state education boards who decide on how kids get taught is a pretty daft idea. From here outside the goldfish bowl it seems like an admirable concept that in the end compromises the integrity of the systems. This is truest of all it seems in the case of school / education boards. Follow me below the squiggle and I'll put my case to you.

First lets start with a pop quiz.

When your car breaks down who do you take it to:
a) Joe The Plumber
b) Don The Dentist
c) Mike The Mechanic

When you need a medical procedure involving surgery who do you go to
a) Joe The Plumber
b) Don The Dentist
c) Sam The Surgeon

When you need decisions making on how your kids are educated who do you go to
a) Joe The Plumber, Pete The Pastor and their mates
b) Don The Dentist, Hannah the Home-schooler Mom and their mates
c) Eddy The Education Expert, Tom The Teacher and their mates

You see, in questions 1 and 2 any sensible person would answer C, but whereas a Bit answers C to answer 3 as well, you my American chums answer A and B.

Look at who sits on school boards. Are these people with the necessary experience to make informed decisions that effect your kids educations? Its bad enough at local levels, but when you extend that system to all powerful entities like the Texas SBOE, whose decisions actually have direct control on the content of school textbooks all across the US, I suggest that electing Don The Dentist and his ultra right wing religious nutball buddies is perhaps as daft as answering A and B to question 2 above.

A few case examples perhaps to support my assertion:

1) The Texas Chainsaw Textbook Massacre:- Don The Dentist McElroy, famous for his screech of "Someone has to stand up to these experts!" when faced with facts from scientists about how creationism is guff, and his equally extreme Religulous Reich buddies not only sought to re-write science, they also re-wrote American history when they oversaw a radical purge of the history text books that contained people they didn't like.... like Jefferson. WTF????? Even after Donny has been trashcanned this madness continues on and on...and Texas is such a big textbook market it effectively dictates what goes in textbooks used all over the US.

2) The Dover Dimwits:- The school board at Dover High was taken over after elections by evangelical fundys who then voted in a policy that injected the laughably misnamed Intelligent Design version of creationism into the school science classes via stealthy underhand tactics including getting a state education official to turn up in class and read out an anti-evolution warning statement. Tammy Kitzmiller and a few other parents called their bluff and took them to court, and of course the school board lost the case. Sure, they also then lost the subsequent elections and were voted out, but the school district still had to foot the bill for the multi million dollar case.

3) The Cranston Clownshow. At Cranston High a very obviously Christian prayer banner was plastered onto one wall of the auditorium. A brave young lass by the name of Jessica Ahlquhist protested and asked that it was taken down, as she explained the unconstitutional and exclusionary nature of the banner. The school board ignored her, went to court and lost the case badly. More dosh lobbed away by fundy god botherers. They also sat by while young Jess was subjected to verbal threats, email death threats, and slandering in the local press.

4) The Texbook Sticker Twonks:- Go in a school library in Kansas, Alabama or several other states and there's a good chance that the dogeared copy of the biology schoolbook on the shelf will have on its cover or inside leaf a large sticker warning that evolution is just a theory blah blah blah. In some places court cases have said that these are improper and must be withdrawn - more money wasted. The stickers cost time and money - more money wasted from school budgets. Why? Cos some religious school boards think evolution makes Jeebus cry.

So.... there you go. Four case examples from a whole truck load of possibilities all across the US. Examples where placing policy decisions and budgets in the hands of ill educated goofballs with little or no regard for the law lands the school district and kids educations in a heap of trouble.

You see the system might work if you had a simple rule that people who sit on the boards had to have some form of experience or qualification in education. But you dont, so the school boards end up staffed by idiots who make bad decisions that sometimes cost the school and district, or state and country, considerably. A system that is joyfully abused by fundy groups from The Discovery Institute downwards through the pondlife of ignorance.

I a lad who comes from a a country where education policy and standards are run by national government the system in the US looks too open to political abuse and liable to fail and cost much needed budgetary money. And in the meantime its your kids who suffer as a result. I maintain that the chaotic US administration of education and its ham handed end application through religiously and politically partisan school board members is one of the major reasons your kids are falling ever further behind other western states kids who grow up, like me, with state educations and unified national curricula administered strictly by "Civil Service" bodies.

Over to you guys for the defense......

Cheers m'dears.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I agree that it is best to have democracy in as many places as possible....

    However....... the devil seems to know how to infiltrate any system that good people can devise.  And the reason for this is because bad people listen to the devil within them.... and of course, the devil within them is more often than not very cunning and chameleon..... and makes that which is very dangerous very beautiful and appealing....

    So long as this goes on, and we know that it does..... how to get the best system remains ever elusive.  We all just need to be alert and attentive in these matters..... and call our the beautiful but dangerous.

  •  First, don't vote Hannah the Homeschooler Mom (7+ / 0-)

    onto the school board. Second, an appointed school board could be infested by the same ideologues as the examples you have given.

    This better be good. Because it is not going away.

    by DerAmi on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:01:59 AM PDT

    •  Too late. She belongs to the local church. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bush Bites

      Hanna the Homeschooler mom, is probably a religious nut, and she has her fellow religious nut's from her church who will vote her in.

      " With religion you can't get just a little pregnant"

      by EarTo44 on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 04:04:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I get SO FRIGGIN' TIRED OF THIS SH!T !!!!!!! (5+ / 0-)

        I am Hannah the Homeschooler.   So, you are speaking to me directly now.

        I am an atheist.   Got that?   A-T-H-E-I-S-T.

        I have one child in public school.    We are very fortunate that one child is physically well, and can handle that environment.  I wish the other one was, too, but she is not.

        My other child is being home-schooled, for one very important reason.  One of my children has a chronic debilitating illness.  She is incredibly intelligent, and she has a central nervous system disorder, which means that walking into the hallway of a public school is an assault on every one of her senses, resulting in sensory overload, anxiety, and PAIN, because those signals get converted into PAIN.  I am talking Pain with a capital "P" like cancer patients get, but which doesn't respond to opiates, because it is a nerve pain.   It feels like  knives being stabbed into your body, with chronic aching, and occasional electrical shocks.

        We stayed in public school, using homebound services, until the school admitted that they just can't handle it.  They can't do it.    What she really needed was a very quiet home environment, with the lights turned off (yes, when she is flared up, even ordinary lighting is painful to her), and quiet, and lots of work to do to keep her occupied.

        I am sick of being stereotyped.    I am a homeschooler.   And, I am MOST DEFINITELY NOT A RELIGIOUS NUT.

        You, however, ARE a "nut" for calling homeschoolers religious nuts.  

        So, right back atcha!!!

        •  Your frustration is very understandable. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The stereotype is certainly not fair. Your case highlights how the people's best interests can be represented by a locally elected school board.

          I can imagine that taking care of your child would not allow you much extra time to serve on the school board. But if you did, I expect you would help to improve the education of families facing these types of difficulties.

          Best wishes to you and your children.

          This better be good. Because it is not going away.

          by DerAmi on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 07:02:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You are rare. (0+ / 0-)

          Excuse me.  You are rare.  You sound like a great mom.

          " With religion you can't get just a little pregnant"

          by EarTo44 on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:54:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hi (0+ / 0-)

            Sorry.  Pet peeve.   You are excused.   But, I would like to strongly emphasize the fact that I am NOT rare.

            Just like it's wrong to say that all depressed people get guns and shoot up a movie theatre because one guy does it, it's wrong to say that all homeschoolers are religious nuts because a few crazy people take advantage of homeschool laws to abuse their kids.

            There are LOTS of moms and Dads like me that have sensible reasons to homeschool that often have little or nothing to do with religion.   I meet lots of them at our meetings (another myth busted -- we homeschoolers DO get out of the house and meet each other).  

    •  Can and are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      An appointed school board has made little difference in Cleveland, Ohio. Hacks can be elected or appointed. (We don't have issues with ideological homeschoolers — just with corporate "reformers").

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07.

      by anastasia p on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 09:38:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The "Hannah" charachter (0+ / 0-)

        is a bad stereotype and I should not have bit on it. The point I wished to make is that if someone is against public education then they should not be voted onto the school board.

        The corporate interests are the most dangerous. Cut public school funding then the better off families are upset that their children are in classes with 30 or more students. Then a "charter" or for-profit school is suddenly proclaiming their superior product. I find this for-profit model to be nothing less than evil.

        This better be good. Because it is not going away.

        by DerAmi on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 11:08:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Does it make any difference? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Reino, exlrrp, leu2500, VectorScalar

    The school board in the district where I went to school would automatically rubber stamp anything the Superintendent wanted regardless of how much the parents rallied or petitioned against it.

    Plus the district was failing so badly that it ended up going through dissolution.

    "If this Studebaker had anymore Atomic Space-Age Style, you'd have to be an astronaut with a geiger counter!"

    by Stude Dude on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:18:51 AM PDT

  •  Democracy Is Good (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's been 12 years since the US had a competent Secretary of Education, so federalizing our education system would not be helpful.

    Under the current system, when somebody complains that the system does not respond well to parents or wastes too much money or whatever, it is easy to respond that oversight for those decisions is made by an elected school board that answers to the public. If we go to experts, then such complaints will increase because citizens will feel even more powerless.

    "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

    by Reino on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:37:05 AM PDT

    •  I'll Add (0+ / 0-)

      The only competent Secretary of Education we've ever had was not an education expert. He was a former governor who distinguished himself as different from the others who have held his office by not being a complete moron. (I admit that I don't know much about the first officeholder, who served for a short time and didn't do much, so it's possible there have been two officeholders who fit the description of Not A Complete Moron.)

      "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

      by Reino on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 04:11:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Can you imagine how much money..... (0+ / 0-)

      ....the charter schools, wingnut think tanks and Koch Brothers would throw at the chance to control one of the largest school districts in the country?

      They'd win in a walk and it would be privatized before you knew it.

      I don't have kids, so I don't care too much, but let's be realistic here.

      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 05:33:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Concerned parents who see the results daily (4+ / 0-)

    don't qualify?

    You see the system might work if you had a simple rule that people who sit on the boards had to have some form of experience or qualification in education.
  •  Mentally deranged usually put more effort into it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have been to quite a few meetings where I actually sat back and just listened to some of the elected officials speaking about one city council issue, or a school board issue, and wondered to myself "How did this idiot get onto this board"?   They are like the Evangelical Christian, who is on that never ending , relentless mission to save one more person.  I like to think of those people as mentally deranged.  If there ever was a debate, I am pretty sure I could win that one.  These are crazy people, and they go through relentless efforts to get elected.  They also have the support of their fellow deranged from their church, who might vote for them, where what could be another candidate for school board, or city council does not go to church, and is too busy working to only focus on getting elected.  So, the qualified people that could be a benefit to a school board, are probably very busy, very smart, and aren't deranged.

    That's why we hear about scary people ( usually religious people) who don't want any learnin about science if it contradicts the bible on those school boards.  

    In my opinion, these people are mentally deranged, and should not be on any school boards, or city council boards.  

    " With religion you can't get just a little pregnant"

    by EarTo44 on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 04:02:41 AM PDT

  •  Who watches the guards? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah, greenbell
    a country where education policy and standards are run by national government the system in the US looks too open to political abuse and liable to fail and cost much needed budgetary money.
    I don't know where you come from but I don't see why a system run by politicians, as opposed to elected representatives, would be free or freer from political abuse, failure or being too expensive.
    Do your poliiticians have more integrity or more community spirit than the average American school board member? You haven't posted anything that shows that if thats what youre trying to say.

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 04:57:03 AM PDT

    •  Well, so far, Chicago isn't teaching... (0+ / 0-)

      ...its students "intelligent design."

      So there's that.

      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 05:40:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Neither do Oregon schools (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        leu2500, elfling

        Whether thats because we have elected school boards or not I can't say.

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:54:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's also not teaching... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...anything that isn't on the standardized test.

        When parents saw Rahm's "longer school day" idea, they thought "maybe this will mean they'll get art, music, and PE classes back." That's why they like the idea.

        But when Rahm, Brizard, and their "reformer" buddies came up with the idea, it was just another way to cram more test prep into the school day.

        An elected school board would either put back the classes that make for a well-rounded education, or find themselves replaced in the next election by people who would.

        "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 06:17:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Nor does our district (0+ / 0-)

        with its elected board.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 02:10:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  elected. my g-d, elected. (6+ / 0-)

    Self- disclosure: I am serving my fourth term as an elected School Committee member, this is my 11th year.

    Electing a School Committee offers a level of accountability that appointing does not- with elections, there is an opportunity to vet the candidate- the opportunity and the responsibility. With an appointment, it is much easier to stack the deck.  We've had Mayors so inept that I shudder to think of the appointments they might have made to the School Committee, having seen how they packed the City Boards with sycophants and relatives.

    There is a larger issue here- and it doesn't affect just schools.The degree of community apathy is astounding. While the education budget represents nearly half of our city budget, when we hold our budget hearings- which include the opportunity for the community to speak to us about their priorities, no one shows up. Literally. We have held budget hearings where the only person attending was a reporter.  That is not sustainable.  We have even gone to holding our hearings at the schools in the community, and still we have few people coming out.  When 20-24% of the electorate turn out to vote, you open the door for candidates who should not serve. In our city, every other election (four year terms, 3 members up every two years) has had no choice of candidates- three seats open, three candidates.

    As for the likelihood of people whose interest in schools is limited to forcing everyone else to think like them (or not think at all), there is a great deal of vigilance required. We call them "stealth candidates," and I've personally taken an interest in flushing them out into the open. It's easy enough to do. The first thing I do, as the "senior" member of our Committee, is offer every candidate the opportunity to have a cup of coffee with me, to "pick my brain."I've had no one refuse.

    I talk with them, and ask them questions designed to get at their underlying passions, and thinking. How do they feel about teacher's teacher's unions, public employees? What do they think about health education? the role of parents? Values education? cultural diversity?

    The thing about stealth candidates is that sooner or later they slip up- either they remain very vague in their answers (a 'tell'- thank you Paul Ryan); or they will eventually regurgitate a right wing talking point.

    If so, I make sure that we all know exactly where they are coming from as we campaign. They become much more accountable to the community.

    It's a lot of work, and it isn't being done by anyone else. It isn't foolproof- sometimes the fools slip by.

    But until we get an informed electorate, it's all we have.

    "When you're skating on thin ice, you might as well dance." Jesse Winchester

    by The Poet Deploreate on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:02:06 AM PDT

  •  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
    Harrisburg, PA
    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

      [ Parent ]

      •  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

        [ Parent ]

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

        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

        [ Parent ]

  •  One of the reasons things (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brae70, koosah, elfling

    are not good on School Boards is that the Republicans made a determined effort, decades ago, to energise grassroots participation ... School Boards and City Councils are good places to start.

    The solution is for local Democratic Parties to become more involved, and in many places they are.

    It is not surprising that you get outlandish decisions from School Boards. Generally they reflect the environment they exist in.

    The decisions are broadly in line with opinion on the City Council and State Legislatures, and look at who gets to Congress .... In most countries, some Congressmen and Sanators wouldn't even get on the ballot they are so extreme.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:17:07 AM PDT

  •  If Progressives want to see fewer nuts on (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, elfling

    any type of local governance board, committee, council or what-have-you then we need to stop sitting by and run for office.  

    I ran for school board against an opponent with much better name recognition and much better financing.  I won because I had the support of the local Progressive community and the teachers' union.  (It helped that my opponent was very polarizing and half the people who recognized his name hated him.)  

    Part of the reason I ran is because as a parent it can feel as if your child's education is at the mercy of capricious forces.  As a Progressive, I also felt that I needed to put my money where my mouth is.  It's not enough to just sit back and wring our hands about how the conservatives have "taken over" local government.  We have to stand up and offer voters a clear difference.  I don't know anything about City Government, but as a former teacher, I know schools and education.  

    The "other side" is going to be better funded.  The "other side" is going to have Church members to count on for support--maybe.  Those people in your opponent's church might say they support him publicly, but privately they've seen him up close and privately they might vote for you because they don't like him so much after all.

    You'll never know until you run.

    I am leery of appointed government.  Who gets to do the appointing?  At some point, at some level, voters will be electing those people who are responsible for appointing these positions.  How much power will your single vote have in a state-wide election for the governor who will appoint an education board?  There is no guarantee that your state government will be any saner than your local community government, but your voice along with your vote will be greatly diluted at that level.  Your only option if you are unhappy with your child's education would be to withdraw from the public school system.

    As I see it, for far too long we Progressives have sat back and abdicated our responsibility for local government and ceded those positions virtually unchallenged.  The "other side" has a huge head start now, but if you wonder why National Democrats don't have a backbone, look at your local government.  That's where National Dems come from.

    BTW, if I recall correctly, that school board in Dover was voted out and replaced in the next election after all their shenanigans.          

    Metaphors be with you.

    by koosah on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 05:21:50 AM PDT

  •  Does it really matter? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In my recent experience with principals and school superintendents and school boards, all I ever hear is a constant refrain of, "It's State Law.  There's nothing we can do."

    As far as I can tell, nobody can do anything, because State Laws are over-riding everything, and as far as finding someone from the State of Texas who can talk to one puny little parent from a little 'burb to resolve a matter, it's like finding the mythical snark.

    Schools now operate like the USSR with a remote central controlling agency which is deaf, dumb and blind to any communications from the lower ranks.    I expect any moment that all schools in the State of Texas will run out of toilet paper because Austin messed up the order, or they will just all blow up like Chernobyl, because no one listened when the lowely school principal cried, "Shut it down!"

    So, we could probably elect Bob the Clown to our School Board.  

    I take that back.  They did one thing, which is really important, which I give them credit for.  They did hire Tom the Teacher -- our School Superintendent, who actually did manage to balance our books, and keep our school district from having massive layoffs during the recent economic crisis.   So, somehow, electing Hannah the Home Schooler to our school board resulted in having Tom the Teacher as our superintendent, which saved our schools.  

    But, if you want to talk attendance, school lunches, etc, you will have to call one of the Capitals (State and Federal government are wrestling for control, and school boards just aren't in the heavy weight wrestling class).   No one knows nothin' around here.

    Mind-twisting, isn't it.

  •  Any republic is only as good... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling the people elected to run it.

    You see the system might work if you had a simple rule that people who sit on the boards had to have some form of experience or qualification in education.
    And legislatures might work better if we had a simple rule that those elected to them had to have some kind of qualification.

    But that's not how a republic works... the people on school boards, in legislatures, on city councils, etc. are elected to represent the people... and any system where that crucial check is removed from the equation quickly devolves into one in which so-called "experts," who actually have few if any qualifications and generally screw up everything they touch, are given near-absolute power.

    There's absolutely no guarantee that an unelected school board is going to be any better at running schools than one elected by the people—except that when the school board is appointed, that's one more level of removal from accountability to the public for their actions.

    We see this in places like Chicago, DC, New York... places where "mayoral control" of schools has given power to people whose purpose is to break teachers' unions, to undermine public education through segregation by charters, to deny funding from public schools and turn them into testing factories.

    The public owns the schools; the public should run the schools. And the way the public runs things is by electing the people who make the decisions. That's life in a republic.

    "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 06:15:04 AM PDT

  •  Most local school boards don't mess around with (0+ / 0-)


    My father was president of our school board in rural Arizona when I was growing up. I have worked with our school board here in WV a bit.

    Most of what they do is worry about finances, which comes down to buildings and people. Other hot button issues are usually things like school lunches or sports that have nothing to do with classroom activities.

    I advocated for a change in the gifted education policy to allow kids to be placed according to their achievement level, not their age. The right wing conservative on the board asked me how much all this would cost. I said "Nothing". The chair made eye contact with the other members and then told the superintendent to do it. They had to get on to a more important discussion about re-paving a parking lot.

  •  Two words you forgot to mention: (0+ / 0-)

    Voter Fatigue.

    Voter fatigue can cause notoriously low voter turnout rates, and potentially more protest vote, and supposedly occurs for a variety of reasons:
    voters are not interested in the issue.
    voters are bothered by the inconvenience of physically voting.
    voters feel their vote will not count / the election has "already been won" by one side.
    voters feel that it is not worth their while to educate themselves as to the issues and hence their vote would not be worth making. This is related to the concept of rational ignorance.
    voters have to vote for too many institutions (too often).

  •  Elected local semi-literates or appointed corrupt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    political hacks.  It's a tough choice.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 07:50:56 AM PDT

  •  Support elected boards (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Where the board members are independent - not working for the school district or local government if the district is under the authority of the local government.

    Any process of board selection will result in bad decisions from time to time - that is the nature of human organizations.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 08:42:40 AM PDT

  •  I am a member of an elected school board (0+ / 0-)

    I am lucky to serve with 4 other people, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, who all really care about the education of our community's children, not just their own. In our case, it is a volunteer position.

    If you suspect your school board sucks, I suggest the following:

    1. Go to the meetings. Hardly anyone comes to ours unless they are giving a report of some kind.

    One reason to go to the meetings is to get a bead on what kind of people you have serving and what the dynamics are. A second reason is that having an audience will affect how the meeting flows. The minutes will never reflect all the tones and back and forth of the in-person experience.

    2. Read the minutes of the meetings if you can't go. They should be public documents, and often they are posted online.

    3. Recruit other people to attend the meetings with you. There is a period for public speaking; use it. Alternately, you can contact the district office about getting an item on the agenda.

    (Note: if you have a personnel issue, it's always best to bring it up privately through administrative channels rather than airing it first in a public meeting. Because the Board can act as a hearing body in some paths, a public complaint to them about a teacher can make it more difficult for action to take place. I'd suggest private discussion with a Board member second.)

    4. Find good candidates to run for office next time, and support them. School Boards are low information races because they are usually smaller than a newspaper or other media coverage area. Even putting a statement on the ballot costs money, something people don't tend to do for a volunteer position. Word of mouth with mailers, talking amongst your neighbors, even facebook etc - you can do a grassroots campaign and you can win even over a candidate with institutional support, especially in a non-mega district.

    Your board is responsible for hiring and supervising your superintendent. It's not necessarily a surprise or a problem if they work well together, unless of course they are all horrible people. :-) The board is not allowed to meet and discuss except in public, but individual board members can and do discuss issues privately with the superintendent in advance.

    Don't give up your local control. Don't limit your school board to people the Mayor and his staff know. Don't give your school away to a corporation.

    You do have the responsibility to elect good people to your board. Welcome to democracy.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 12:08:39 PM PDT

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