School Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise in Democracy
Barring a scandal, school boards fly under the education-media radar. Yet these bodies spend nearly $600 billion in public funding and employ millions of Americans. This book offers a detailed and nuanced look at the history, practicality, and future of these darlings of local control—and asserts that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. While they may be outdated—like the mom-and-pop corner store or the local bank that holds your home’s mortgage—there is still a place for school boards in American education culture: They represent democracy in our nation’s public schools, and there’s scant evidence that we’d do a better job governing schools without them. In reaching this conclusion, author Gene Maeroff spins the reader through a whirlwind of education-reform debates, from accountability to teacher quality to funding—all through the eyes of the local school board. He provides case-study examples of successful school boards (like that of Denver Public Schools) and those that have been far less so (like that of Clayton County, GA) as well as scores of interesting data points. (Did you know that LAUSD’s school-board members who are not otherwise employed make $45,600 per annum? Or that the average school-board member spends twenty-five hours a month on board business?) In the end, though Maeroff acknowledges inherent and systemic flaws in school boards, he offers up reasonably mundane suggestions for righting them—including having appointed and not elected boards, and increasing professional development—leaving us still searching for the most viable governance arrangement for our schools.
Gene Maeroff, School Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise in Democracy, (New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, December 2010).
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