The Future of School Boards

Agents of reform or defenders of the status quo?

Across the nation, urban officials are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the performance of elected school boards. The examples of mayors Richard Daley in Chicago and Michael Bloomberg in New York City” both of whom sought and won direct control over their city’s school systems–have inspired other mayors, such as Anthony Williams in Washington, D.C., to press for the power to appoint the school board’s members or dissolve the board altogether.

The typical complaints lodged against elected school boards are that no one person is in charge of the schools and that board members are often concerned more with advancing their own political careers than tending to the students’ educational needs. The resulting turf battles and grandstanding can create chaos instead of focused leadership.

School boards in some cities, notably in San Diego and Houston, have coalesced around a vision for reform and put that vision into action. Can they become the norm rather than the exception? And if not, are there alternatives that can keep the public involved in school governance while still encouraging high performance?

Sarah Glover on the necessity of school boards

Chester E. Finn Jr. and Lisa Graham Keegan on the end of school boards

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