Here's the comment I put in:
Dr Hill gets a few things right and several things wrong.
He's right that rearranging who gets to be on a board or whopicks the board hasn't shown any major promise. (And it's interesting that Mayor Murray still seems to want to try this takeover with the Seattle School Board. It would be good political theater but bad policy.)
I would also agree that the confusion/tension over the role of the school board (and being on the school board is a team sport, not an individual one) vis a vis the running of a district can be a problem.
But he gets much wrong - at least for Seattle - one what the Board does. The Board does not:
- decide how the money will be spent - the Superintendent and staff do and the Board okays it.
- hiring and assign teachers - the Board has zero to do with this
- choosing instructional practices - not sure what he means but yes, the Board does approve books but not how they are used
- manage real estate - again, that's the Superintendent and staff's jobs to do and the Board only approves what is brought to them
- running a bus system - nope
- negotiating favorable terms for the teachers contract - absolutely not. No Seattle Board member sits in on a single negotiating session. Those are planned and run by the Superintendent and staff. Again, the Board only approves the final contract.
What boards need to do is create policies for the Superintendent to then create procedures to guide the work of a district. And then, enforce them thru accountability measures. That's all. The Board has nothing to do with the actual running of the district.
Then we come to Dr. Hill's REAL premise - you might call it vouchers or "schools as districts" (kind of like it is for charter schools) - whatever it is, it's one hot mess.
In A Democratic Constitution for Public Education, a new book coauthored by myself and Ashley E. Jochim, we propose that state laws be amended so that local boards have only two powers: to approve an annual slate of schools to operate in their locality, and to employ a CEO who will track school performance, identify children and neighborhoods whose needs are not being met and find school providers who can meet those needs. Individual schools, not the local board, would employ teachers, rent or buy facilities and technology, and decide how to deliver instruction. Families would choose schools and money would follow children to the schools they attend.
Under the new “constitutional” system, local boards would not have the power to operate schools, employ teachers or principals, set pay levels, or create and oversee big central bureaucracies. Individual schools would set salaries and decide how to allocate budgets between salaries, support services for students and families, and individualization of instruction via technology.
What is the point of having a board to "approve a slate of schools?" Wouldn't that mean some kind of assessment to make sure they are good, functioning schools? Would the board do this?
Employ a CEO? You mean a superintendent or is the business model, once again, being touted for public education?
Individual schools - like charters do - would employ teachers, buy/rent facilities, and decide instruction? That's quite the free-for-all and how is that working out for charters? Not great. The one single open charter in Washington State - located in Seattle - is one probation. Nationally, the picture is not much better.
And would these little fiefdoms fight over state capital dollars? Who decides what is the "best" school that would get those dollars?
And the only way to "individualize" instruction is via technology? Oh ye, of little faith. I would assume he means that some part of the day must be in front of a computer.
Charters are NOT parent cooperatives. Far from it and I would believe you would see less, not more parent input and engagement.
There aren't "constant struggles over attendance zones." The Board, working with staff, approved an attendance plan based on neighborhood assignment which is what the Board and district had been hearing was the desire of parents for years. The problem today is our district - unlike other urban districts - is growing. That's not something to be called a major problem (unless you don't know how to handle capacity issues).
If you want to start over with redefining school boards in Washington State, this is not the way to go.