"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

Search This Blog

Monday, July 9, 2012

What School Board Associations Should Be Teaching their Members: They Have Little to No Power in Educational Decisions for their Districts

The actions of most school board members to Federal Control of their schools

The Missouri School Board Association's explanation of its purpose sounds promising.  From the first two paragraphs under "history":

The school board is a unique institution in American culture. It has served to keep schools close to the people as our system of public education has changed over the years. School boards offer citizens from all walks of life the opportunity to determine the community’s direction and vision for their children’s education.

From its very beginning as a state, Missourians have recognized the importance of locally controlled public schools. The Act of 1820, which allowed Missouri to become a state, established the township as the first way of organizing schools. This system led to the creation of many small, autonomous schools governed by local citizens. Then, in 1839, the Geyer Act was passed. This Act is generally recognized as the real beginning of organized education in Missouri. It eliminated the township system and created what were known as sub-districts governed by three trustees. Another sweeping revision of Missouri’s education laws in 1874, gave almost complete control of schools over to local citizens. Among other things, citizens were empowered to elect local school district directors.

from the last paragraph:

School boards remain an essential institution to ensure that local communities are connected to their public schools. Whether large or small, urban, suburban or rural, we’re all striving to provide the best educational opportunities for our young people. And we’re doing it together through the Missouri School Boards’ Association.

It's unfortunate the original intentions for school boards aren't true.

Today's school boards have no autonomy to set standards, assessments and other policies.  These have been taken over by the state, the federal government and the consortias controlling Common Core standards.  The legal authority for local districts to set their own curriculum doesn't have much meaning when the curriculum must follow the standards and assessments.  The proponents of Common core are now touting the standards evolving into a national curriculum.

If your school board members still insist the district can set its own curriculum, that statement is legally true, but the curriculum is being dictated by the standards and assessments.  It's similar to this sentence from MSBA: citizens were empowered to elect local school district directors....what good does it do for citizens to elect district directors who are figureheads?  Symbolic votes don't actually give power to school board members to control educational decisions on behalf of their local taxpayers.  When you are voting for a school district member today, you are voting for them to hire teachers and maintain physical property.  The rest of the decisions have largely been determined by the state or federal level bureaucrats and the school board needs to find the money to pay for these unmandated educational delivery and content decisions.

Excerpted below is an op ed from a Citrus County Florida school board member describing her job as it really is...largely symbolic from a time when local school board members could actually drive the direction of the district, rather than its current configuration of having to pay for state and federal (not local) mandates:

From State Board member Pat Duetschman in Citrus County chronicleonline.com:


The issue for you, the voter and taxpayer, is much more personal. You elected me and four other school board members and a superintendent of schools to determine what is best for students in Citrus County schools. But our hands are now being tied by people who are not accountable to you or any voter of Florida. You should be angry — I am.

The educational reform movement that supports the growing list of mandated tests is led by people who are not elected. Private corporations and foundations are dictating the educational standards — readily adopted by state legislators, most of whom are not educators nor do they seem willing to listen to them. The mission and future of public education has been dramatically changed by their efforts and hinges now 100 percent on test scores.

The rules for testing and scoring in public schools are set by the commissioner of education and a six-member state Board of Education. These people are all political appointees, most holdovers from the Jeb Bush administration. They are accountable to no one except perhaps the governor who has not interceded in their controversial decisions. They are also the ones responsible for the recent debacle of test scores plummeting, changing the passing rates, and now sending letters to parents declaring the lower scores are simply a reflection of new assessment procedures and not a reflection of student performance.

A lot of chest-thumping has gone on recently by those claiming the tests are the sole factor in improvements to student performance and graduation rates. If that were so, all schools in Florida would be performing at the same level. The truth is teaching matters and tests don’t teach. School superintendents and school boards have been the ones to create educational policy, hire the best teachers, provide effective training, develop evaluation and assessment systems to track student performance all year long, and finally to analyze data to set priorities and be accountable for results.

We are also the ones who must deal with the ramifications of the test scores. To undermine those very people who have actually and daily provided the environment and ability for students to thrive is a gross injustice. To give credit to a test for student learning is a deception.

So the question to you, the voters and the taxpayers, is this: Who do you ultimately trust to make the decisions that impact our public schools? Is it the locally elected boards and superintendents who will meet with you face to face, answer your questions, talk with you in the grocery store, lose sleep over our students and be willingly accountable for student performance — or the corporations, big-money contributors and political appointees who may never have stepped foot in a classroom and don’t answer to you? 

This is also the heart of the resolution and efforts by Florida’s school boards to push back against unreasonable mandates that make no sense for our students, are punitive and cause more problems than they solve.
When the Florida commissioner of education, who is appointed, not elected, tells a room full of hundreds of elected school board members to basically stop questioning the testing regime and to do as we are told, something is terribly wrong with the balance of power and I honestly feel is a significant challenge to democracy.


I believe this type of statement will never appear in the Missouri State Board Association (or any state board association's) website FAQs, do you?  Never mind the fact this is geared toward Florida, this board member's experience is similar to any state that adopted Common Core standards.  Remember, the standards and assessments are "common" and a shared experience.  What is happening in Florida is happening in Missouri, is happening in Massachusetts, is happening in Georgia....tweak it here and there (appointed members vs elected members) and you've got the same sad scenario.  

 Refer back to the first sentence on the MSBA's website:

From its very beginning as a state, Missourians have recognized the importance of locally controlled public schools.

Missourians and residents from other states recognize the importance of locally controlled public schools.  The fact is: THEY DON'T EXIST ANY LONGER.

From the last paragraph:

School boards remain an essential institution to ensure that local communities are connected to their public schools.

Local communities are only connected to their public schools (now being directed by private companies) in that they pay for mandated programs they may not need...or want...or can afford.


  1. The Florida School Board Association, which represents all 67 Florida School Boards passed a resolution calling for a re-evaluation of the state's accountability system. At least 15 individual school boards have passed similar resolutions. More school boards are considering similar action.

    Just last week, Florida Governor Scott said more parents had complained about the state's testing program than in year's passed, and he said he was looking into these concerns.

    If it can happen in Florida, it can happen anywhere.

  2. Our local School Boards are being turned into "white washed tombs full of dead men's bones." Useless and of no value in maintaining local control, oversight and accountability. This is the dirty little secret behind the State consortia established to draft and implement the Common Core Standards, a one size fits all education system, built for the benefit of the stake holders.


Keep it clean and constructive. We reserve the right to delete comments that are profane, off topic, or spam.

Site Meter