The public schools system is a social institution. One could even say that it is socialism in one of its most basic forms. Communities are empowered as a group to work together to provide for the education of all of the children within their town, city or district. Their local efforts are overseen, evaluated and financially bolstered by the county, state and federal governments. It is this public school system, conceived and founded over 200 years ago, which has directly contributed to and been responsible for this country’s rise in leadership, stature and dominance throughout the world.
The system is a good one and it still works in both practice and theory but it does have an Achilles heal and the chink in its armor that could bring about its untimely demise does not lie within its teachers, employees, administrators, tax base or children. Any problem the system has can be found in the same place where all business models ultimately find their problems and that is within its management and leadership. The public schools in America are businesses; Make no mistake about that, but unlike a typical business whose success is measured in profits the public schools’ success is measured by the success of its children. Businesses make money important. Schools make children important and that fundamental difference must never be forgotten.
The CEO of a business must be concerned with the company’s expenses as they relate to its profits but the CEO of a public school system must be concerned with the system’s expenses only as they relate to the successful learning of its children. As a parent, is cost your first concern when it comes to the well being of your child? Or is it your child’s well being that is your first concern?
So, who is the CEO of the public schools? The Board of Education is, and the Board of Education is a publicly elected body chosen by the school district’s voting age citizens. Their function is to oversee the public schools and make sure that those schools are serving the needs and best interests of their children. They hire a superintendent who acts as a liaison between the BOE and their management personnel and the public school teachers, administrators and staff.
This all sounds well and good but the question that I now ask is this. What qualifications does a person need to possess in order to become a local BOE member and oversee the day to day business of operating the local public school system? The answer? None! Except that of being a citizen of voting age who resides within the district. Is this how you would choose someone to oversee your business? Would you simply look for volunteers and then have your neighborhood vote? Or would you require or even demand that your CEO and board of directors have superior knowledge and expertise concerning your particular business, its products, consumer base etc.?
While we assume that citizens who run for their local BOE have the best interest of the children in mind, it is after all only an assumption and not a requirement. BOE members do not even have to have children in the public schools. They don’t even have to have had children or like them for that matter. And they can even act like children (which they often do) they just can’t be children.
Now I’m not suggesting that we let children run the public schools. What I am suggesting is that public school board members be required to have children who are in those public schools which they oversee. This will guarantee that they have a stake in the company, a reason to assure its success and a reason to keep close tabs on its daily operation and well being. Might a board of education such as I propose spend more money on its public schools, since that’s where its children are? Yes! Absolutely! If you starve your business of capital what do you think will happen to it? It will fail just like many of our public schools are failing now. And those that are failing are failing because they are in school districts where there is the most poverty and the greater likelihood that their BOE members do not have a stake in the public schools because those members no longer have school age children or no longer send their children to the “poor, old, run down” public schools and because they were most likely selected by an electorate that has no money or who no longer wishes to spend money on “those” kids who aren’t “ours”.
We all know that voter turnout in our representative, democratic system is often low and it’s even lower during school elections and still lower in areas of poverty (among voters who are poor) so the poorer a child is, the less likely that child will be represented by a public school BOE member who has a direct stake or interest in that child’s future success.
This is the flaw in our age old system. It does not address nor does it offer a safeguard for the problem of: What if the elected public school board has little or no relation to the children it is entrusted to oversee?
What if Ebenezer Scrooge and his ilk were elected to and held the majority on your town’s BOE? Would they have the best interests of your children in mind? Would they be required to? Would they most likely raise the budget or look for ways to cut spending? Would their interests lie with the welfare of your children or with the welfare of their businesses? In a country who values all of its children, should we allow their education this option? Are there no work houses? Are there no orphanages?
Until Scrooge was visited by his 3 angels and was foretold the bleakness and despair of a future bereft of love and generosity for all of his neighbors great and small, Tiny Tim was a casualty of Scrooge’s enterprise, an unavoidable bi product of wealth, an unwelcome after thought.
We must all listen to the angels of our better nature and take note of what will be the bleakest of futures for our country if we don’t love and care for all of our nations’ children equally. We must repair our current educational system by requiring board of education members to be representative of the children and families of those who attend the public schools. Each elected member must not only be an upstanding and educated citizen of his community but also a parent whose children attend that community’s public schools.
We cannot continue to build a better and stronger nation if our motto is going to be “God Bless Me.” Like Tiny Tim, the poor, crippled child who had to rely on the love and generosity of his family and community for his wellness and well being, our motto must be “God bless us, Everyone!”