Published Online: September 23, 2014
Published in Print: September 24, 2014, as N.Y. Association Defends Role Of Elected School Boards

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N.Y. Association Defends Role of Elected School Boards

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To the Editor:

In a recent Commentary, Chester E. Finn Jr. states that local control of schools needs to be reinvented. That's shorthand for saying school boards have outlived their usefulness and need to be replaced with something else. The New York State School Boards Association couldn't disagree more.

A democratically elected board of education with decisionmaking authority, working in cooperation with community leaders and parents, provides stronger leadership than any of the models Mr. Finn identifies, such as mayoral control. Here are a few reasons why:

• Children need a strong and independent champion. School board elections minimize the specter of undue political influence, patronage, or reduction of education's standing in a broad range of municipal fiscal priorities.

• School board elections encourage individuals throughout the community with diverse backgrounds and experiences to seek office. Candidates with opposing viewpoints promote extensive public discussion and give voters a clear choice.

• Local school boards make decisions about the nature and scope of student programs that represent local community interests. They are the local link between a community and its school system, responsible for assuring parents and taxpayers that they are being represented when decisions are made.

The National School Boards Association's Center for Public Education found that there is no consensus among researchers about whether mayoral-controlled school districts improve student achievement.

Mayors have found it easier to clean up district-level finances and change management practices than improve student achievement. School boards appointed by mayors—rather than those elected by a community—shift from conduits for public information and can become political operations that are elite, homogeneous, and distant. As a result, the forum for representing a community's interest in its public education system is often lost.

Timothy G. Kremer
Executive Director
New York State School Boards Association
Latham, N.Y.

Vol. 34, Issue 05, Page 24

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