"What we have ignored is what citizens can do and the importance of real involvement of the people involved - versus just having somebody in Washington make a rule."
― Elinor Ostrom
Primacy of Parents in
Education in the United States has historically emphasized local control of schools, standards, curriculum, and testing. The farther away a decision is made from those it affects, the worse that decision is. Local control fosters local involvement. Local involvement ensures the best educational outcome.
Public education was founded on the concept that local citizens would pool resources together to provide a community school. Who taught, what was taught, who the Administrator was, what success looked like was to be determined by the community by way of a school board. Citizens elected individuals to provide direction and oversight of their schools by way of the school board.
It is a great system as long as the public elects board members who keep education local. What happens is,board members get co-opted by the system they are charged to oversee. Once elected, a board member is subjected to board training, and taught they should not have their own agenda (opinion), but should only work in harmony with the "Do local boards control education if they do not control standards, curriculum, testing, or teacher evaluation?"administration. Bi-monthly superintendent meetings, yearly board retreats, dozens of dinners with administration personnel, change the perspective of the board member. Instead of representing the will of the community to the school system, the board begins to represent the will of the school system to the community. Board members become part of the education club if they do not remain steadfast in keeping education local.
This process is made more pronounced when the community is not actively involved in education decisions via board meetings. Lack of attendance is seen as lack of interest by those making the decisions. If the public isn't perceived as having interest in an issue, the school administrators will simply decide on their own. What else could they do?
A local school district isn't an island unto itself. They are part of a large and powerful state system which includes the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education. These organizations are staffed with dedicated and experienced individuals who are more than ready to tell a local district what and how they should educate their children. If a local board does not assert its obligation to the local community, it simply becomes an appendage of the state.
Of course, Utah does not exist independent of a national system of education. The Department of Education nudges education decisions powerfully with the carrot of federal funding. Whether it is what food is served to our children or whether we need to adopt common standards, federal money becomes the incentive Utah lawmakers cannot seem to resist.
So where does that leave local decisions? We are told we can decide curriculum. Of course we have to choose between the few textbooks that are accepted by the state (which decides based on a system that ensures continued federal funding). Do we really have local education when we are limited in what we can choose? Do local boards control education if they do not control standards, curriculum, testing or teacher evaluation?
Just because this is the way the system currently works, does not mean it must remain this way. The change begins with you. Elect board members based on the criteria of how well they will protect and promote local education.
If a few local school districts reasserted their right to determine education policy, according to the priorities of the parents and taxpayers who created the district, the pressure would go up the ladder to the state. Lawmakers and State Board members would find the political courage to reassert the state's rights to determine education priorities and say no to various national/federal programs that run counter to local priorities.
Public education is the result of what the public determines it to be. For the past few decades, the public has been satisfied with boards that rubber stamp edicts from higher up. I'm not satisfied rubber-stamping is the means to the best possible education. I have found most Alpine School District patrons are willing to step up the commitment to local education.
I'm convinced that involvement by parents and taxpayers on a local level invigorates the education system and ensures we have the best support for the best teachers, administrators, the smartest policies and the best educational outcomes. That is why my signs say "Keep Education Local." Parents not bureaucrats. It is time board members remember who created the system and who it is they are responsible to represent.
Citizens committed to ensure public education
is a reflection of the local community which creates, funds, and supports its existence. We see the best outcomes of public education coming from the partnership of parent, child, and teacher. The goal is bottom up, locally controlled education supporting the
G E T I N V O L V E D
Did You Know?
Air (American Institutes for Research) is the organization the state of Utah contracted ($39 million) with to develop and administer our SAGE year end testing.
AIR states on their About Us page:
"AIR is one of the world's largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations. Our overriding goal is to use the best science available to bring the most effective ideas and approaches to enhancing everyday life."
Steve Leinwand is a Principal Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research. He states:
"The fact that for the first time, the U.S. has what is essentially a national curriculum, equivalent in quality to what is found in the highest scoring countries in the world, means that the focus of leadership can finally shift from arguing about what math to teach, to how best to teach the agreed upon content to all students."
Do you believe AIR is committed to local control of education?
Do you believe AIR is acting as if Common Core is only about standards and not about curriculum or assessments?
Do you believe the State Office of Education, Chamber of Commerce, or the Utah PTA will resist a "national curriculum" after having endorsed Common Core?
What is more important to you, having a national curriculum or local control?