Boards Of Education

28 Aug


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!”

6 Responses to “Boards Of Education”

  1. Daphne August 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Very interesting post. I have long thought that there should be experience requirements for BOE members. It does seem counter-intuitive to have people who don’t have children making decisions about the education of children. However, just having children, even children in that particular school system, doesn’t guarantee that the end result would be any better or different. Perhaps what you want and find most important for your child isn’t what I want and find most important for mine. For example, you might want a new gym because your child is very good at basketball, and I think the same money would be better spent on equipment and technology, because those are my child’s strengths.

    • gpicone August 30, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

      Yes, I agree…but at least we would both be BOE members talking about children and what we think they need added to the budget rather than what we can cut from the budget and what we think the children we don’t have don’t need.

  2. Ken Short August 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    I think your analogy needs some work and do not agree that in order to be on the board of education you should have children in the school system. The Board of Education is the exactly that a board; similar to the Board of Directors in a corporation. The Superintendent is the CEO and should sit on the board.

    Currently in NJ schools are funded almost primarily through property taxes. Under your plan only those with children would be able to sit on the board of education. Does that mean only those with children should pay the property tax portion that goes to the schools? Or do you feel we should disenfranchise those taxpayers who do not have children or no longer have children in the schools?

    As with any board, the board should be made up of individuals who have a stake in the corporation and a vested interest in its success. These members should represent the shareholders in the corporation or residents in a community. May people feel that the more we spend the better the education, more important is how that money is spent.

    Wealthy districts do better not because of the money spent; it is the support and attention they get outside of school. Computers, books, etc mean nothing if you are going to school hungry or barely have enough to support you at home. Educational success should not be about how many go to college, it should be about how many children come out of school able to be good citizens with the critical skills necessary to participate in society and contribute what they can to it. That means programs that feed our children, support them, and put them on career and learning paths that are best for them.

    A true board of education would be made up of a variety of people who can bring their collective knowledge and experience to benefit the community and produce the best citizens. A board that realizes that the fine arts are just as important as sports and history and foreign languages deserve to be on the same pedestal as math and science.. That throwing money at a problem is not always the answer and yes, making cuts when necessary and most of all doing what is best for everyone not just a select minority who has the time and energy to make their voice heard at every meeting.

    Keep up the great writing I enjoy your blog and look forward to the next one!

    • gpicone August 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      Hey Ken! Thanks for reading! You make some good points…perhaps we need a formula that affords representation to all sides. When a corporation is taken over by interests that see more value in the company’s destruction than in its resurrection, that’s not a good thing for the people involved who aren’t shareholders. Children need special protections I believe, because they must rely on others to be their advocates when it comes to looking out for their own interests. Hope you keep reading 🙂

  3. elroyjones September 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    My concern is that we will see a privatization for profit model of the “public” school system. It can happen, just as it did with the prison system. There are a lot of mean-spirited greedy people who don’t want their municipal taxes to increase to fund education.

  4. elizjamison September 11, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Very relevant and interesting. I was struck by your following quote: “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”. A few years ago, an older student teacher came to student teach with the department head of my English department. She was very confident and assumed that because she was on a board of education (not ours, but another county’s) that she’d be a natural in the classroom. Well, as you can guess, the opposite was true. She had absolutely no idea how to many kids, she didn’t know her material, she was never prepared, and she choked under pressure. And yet she remained arrogant because of her BOE status. I remember asking the question you asked above! What qualifications do these people who run our school systems have to have because THIS is crazy!


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