A few days from today, people will be voting for school board candidates, so it is important that we understand the underlying issues behind the well-reported conflicts. The primary responsibility of school board members is to represent the common man, you and me, in directing the affairs of our local schools and improving the education of our children. The school system, like any big organization, is internally a top-down entity whose local administrators have a primary responsibility to implement whatever comes down to them from state and federal education administrators. Our local administrators are simply not in a position to oppose wrong ideas. Mavericks are rarely rewarded in that kind of system. We need board members who will protect the public trust by questioning the professional hierarchy.
Why question? By any measure, the U.S. education system performs poorly. In a recent study of student performance, Americans ranked 16th in science and 23rd in math when compared to 57 developed countries. We were outperformed by such second tier nations as Finland, Estonia, Canada, Korea, and Hong Kong. The U.S. educational system also has a history of not being effective at reforming itself. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone in or out of the system who has a kind word to say about the most recent federal reform, “No Child Left Behind.” No sooner are we released from that debacle that the Department of Education gives us “Race to the Top.” A prudent person would look into it before jumping on board.
My concern as a local resident is that people may care more about schools than they care about education. After all, public schools provide day-care so parents can go to work, quality jobs for local residents, and inexpensive sports and entertainment. Grant money greases the wheels of running all the good “stuff” that schools produce, and local reform might put the flow of federal money at risk. Nevertheless, the quality of education is a vital national resource. We therefore need school board members who question federal mandates and put the education and interests of our children ahead of public school insiders.