Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Time for a Paradigm Shift

Everybody seems to have a solution or someone to blame for the education problems we face. There’s vouchers. There’s charter schools. There’s school choice. We blame parents. We blame teachers. We blame TV and on and on and on. In all the arguments and all the blame games, when do you ever hear the school board mentioned?

A while back one of the cable channels devoted an entire week to education. They talked to experts. They held panels. Not once did they bring up school boards or talk with a school board member.

Educating our children is a state responsibility but states have delegated much of that responsibility to local school boards. School boards are, therefore, state agencies and the school board members provide local citizen control over education. Their most important job is to employ a superintendent and then hold that person responsible for managing the schools and thus hiring the appropriate personnel.

This is an awesome responsibility; yet, it doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by the general public. On a totem pole of elected officials, school board members rank at the bottom. Most generally, in any gathering where elected officials are recognized there is no mention of a school board member being present. Last week I attended a candidate forum at UMKC. One of the last remarks by one of the moderators was to tell everyone to be sure to vote in the primary in February and then the general in March. Also, don’t forget the e-tax election April 5. Well, no. April 5 is a school board election and the e-tax happens to be on the same ballot.

It seems like a simple solution. Let’s take our school boards seriously. Let’s actually give some thought to the qualifications board member candidates have and their reasons for running in the first place. Sometimes school boards seem to be nothing more than stepping stones for higher office. They’re a way to gain name recognition so when the ‘important’ election comes along there will be a greater chance of winning.

I may be jaded but it seems like it doesn’t much matter who’s in office, you can pretty well expect what will happen. If the Republicans are in charge, things will go one way. If the Democrats are in charge, things will go a different way. Sometimes we simply seem to be spinning our wheels.

It’s time for people to wake up and realize we can no longer spin our wheels with education. Our children are our future. Doesn’t that make the people in charge of their education more important than those running our city? Maybe if we took school boards seriously, the people who run for them would, too. Maybe then we’d be able to elect school board members who actually knew something about what their responsibilites are. Maybe then we’d have school boards that actually took responsibility for the children in their districts and held their superintendents accountable. Maybe then we’d actually begin to see our children being educated the way they should be.


Anonymous said...

You are so right. The Hickman Mills School Board is full of those who want to be State Representatives. Of course they do. Who wants to work for years without ever being paid for the position. That's right, school board members don't get paid. So what if they want to move on to a paying job. Is that so wrong? I don't really care, but I would really like for them to be open and honest about how they look at the district. If they get elected to something else, let them. Maybe we can get someone with fresh ideas that will focus on the district instead of their next job.

Anonymous said...

A recent tweet by Mark Forsythe went something like this:

KC Voter to City Council/Mayoral Candidate: "What will you do about something over which you have no control or authority??"

Candidate: "Fix it!!!!"

Voter: "You've got my vote!"

This certainly applies to the current city council/mayoral race and the education issue. Not only does the City have no authority to manage or fund education, there is little they can do beyond moral support.

And to add to that: certain candidates seem to be scoring points just by saying things.

When will voters ever learn to LOOK AT THE RECORD. Only there will you learn how to predict what a politician will do in the future, because those animals do not change their stripes, my friend.

Anonymous said...

One of the main problems seems to be - as this blog accidentally pointed out - is the lack of parental involvement. Parents just don't show up in enough numbers to school board meetings, whether the meeting is considering large or small issues. If they did they could pressure their boards to do what they ought to.