First thing in my email inbox this morning was an “Advocacy Alert” from the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA): It was the “2012 Resolution Kit,” a kickoff notice to get the wheels rolling so that NYSSBA presents a united front in lobbying the state legislature. This was a rather tame “alert,” as these things go. Others have had a Whitney Tilson quality: “Free the Schools!” or “Full Court Press!” or “Mandate Relief? Give us a break!”
Like many such organizations, NYSSBA can be wordy and bureaucratic, but I was happy to see that this year’s kit included a statement that “the Association currently lacks resolutions addressing some of public education's most pressing issues” and that “examples of issues that lack the support or opposition of a NYSSBA resolution are:
- How the state will address the rising costs of energy and health care and the impact on local taxes.
- Whether or not charter schools should be allowed to join NYSSBA or receive NYSSBA services.
This resolution signals a major move forward on the part of an organization that tends to be resolutely establishment.
The second resolution signals a major move forward on the part of an organization that tends to be resolutely establishment (for all the reasons that reform critics have cited) and gives me some hope that organizations like NYSSBA can become leaders of school improvement. (See Adam’s Choice Words post on National School Boards Association executive director Anne
John Chubb is CEO of Leeds Global Partners and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution where he is a member of the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education. He is co-author with Terry Moe of Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education and author of "Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning."
If a public school student wants to take an Advanced Placement course from Apex Learning, a respected provider of online AP instruction, who should determine whether the student may do so? Today, the answer is almost uniformly, the local school board (or charter board) that governs the student’s school. Should it be so?
States have long delegated to local boards the authority to determine how students satisfy state standards such as graduation requirements. If a student wants to meet a state standard by some means other than what his or her school is offering, local board policies determine whether the student may. This makes a certain amount of sense. Students and families may want an option of dubious academic value.
But boards may decide these matters with more on their minds than quality control. Every time a student opts to receive a bit of education outside of a home school, the school or district faces a financial hit: it loses state revenue or gets stuck with a fee. Local boards consequently are not
Guest blogger John Kirtley is the founder of two private equity firms in Tampa, FL. He is the chairman of Step Up For Students, a non-profit that administers the tax credit scholarship program and which now empowers the parents of nearly 40,000 low income Florida children who attend a private school of their choice, and of the Florida Federation for Children, a "527" political organization active in Florida legislative races. He is vice chair of the American Federation For Children, a national parental choice advocacy organization, and also a board member of the Florida Charter School Alliance and the Hillsborough County (Tampa) Education Foundation.
The most important governance question is: “Will low income and working class parents truly direct the taxpayer dollars used to educate their children?”
The definition of “public education” is changing rapidly, even if some don’t want it to. It used to mean giving taxpayer dollars solely to districts to operate all schools, where kids are assigned by zip code. The emerging definition, which I prefer, is using taxpayer dollars to educate children in the best way possible for each of them, using a variety of providers and delivery methods.
Parents with enough means already direct dollars—their own—to the best education providers for their kids. Parents with means move to neighborhoods with good public schools, or pay tuition for a private school. Increasingly, these parents combine
Harold Kwalwasser was the General Counsel of the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2000-2003. Previously, he had served in the Clinton Administration and as a senior staffer in the California State Senate and the United States Congress. He currently writes and consults on education issues. In 2009-10, he visited 40 high performing and transforming school districts to see what is working in American education as part of his research for his book, Renewal, Remaking America's Schools for the 21st Century, which has just been published by Rowman and Littlefield.
The BIG Question: What’s the most important governance issue?
We have spent most of the last three years watching Congress contemplate reauthorizing No Child Left Behind.
That contemplation has involved endless discussions of all sorts of issues and ideologies, but it has missed what may be the most important question in American public education today: Can we trust school districts to deliver the kind of education we want for our kids?
Does trust matter? Absolutely.
There are two indisputable facts that underscore the importance of trust. On the one hand, there are absolutely terrific districts in this country. They are so good and so effective at teaching every child, including minority children and English language learners, that the only sensible answer is to get out of the way and let them do what they are doing. Typical federal and state policy options, like categorical spending restrictions or directives about how to fix failing schools,
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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