Editorial: Out With School Boards?

An recent editorial in Governing draws into question the value of school boards.  As described by the author, the idea of eliminating school boards has been circulated over the past few years, and may be increasing in popularity.

Advocates contend that the school board structure gives communities a direct voice in governance and that members are held accountable through the election process. But there’s an increasing sense among others that it may be time to eliminate school boards altogether. The idea has crossed party lines. The Center for American Progress is a generally liberal institution, but Chester Finn, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a former assistant education secretary under President Ronald Reagan, has issued similar decrees. “School boards are an aberration, an anachronism, an education sinkhole,” he said in 2006. “Put this dysfunctional arrangement out of its misery.”

The author suggests alternative educational governance structures to the current school board system, including local government control and charter schools.

This year in Maryland the General Assembly passed the Prince George’s County – School System – Academic Revitalization and Management Effectiveness Initiative PG 411-13.  The new law grants the County Executive of Prince George’s County and the Prince George’s County Council the authority to appointment certain members of the county school board, including the chair and vice chair of the board.  It also establishes that the Prince George’s County Executive shall select the Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George’s County public school system, and authorizes the Chief Executive Officer to consolidate schools under certain circumstances.  

For more commentary on this topic, see the complete editorial from Governing.