School Boards

A Conservative Agenda for School Board Members


—Vector art: Doyata/Getty; background image: Photodisc/Getty

The center right must check the “progressive” left


Michael J. Petrilli & Chester E. Finn Jr.

Let us start with a confession: As card-carrying members of the school-choice and testing-and-accountability wings of the education reform movement, we have at times been dismissive, even hostile, to local school board members. That’s because these elected officials, constrained as they may be by laws, regulations, and the leanings of those they employ, have often seemed willing to protect the status quo and resist changes intended to overhaul the jalopy we call American public schooling.


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A Losing Fight to Keep Schools Desegregated

Letha Muhammad, of south Raleigh, sends her children to district magnet schools in Wake County, N.C., including Moore Square Magnet Middle School pictured behind her. An education activist, Muhammad says it’s critical that the school board be sensitive to how all communities are impacted by any changes to the district’s school assignment plan.

—Caitlin Penna for Education Week

| Corrected: August 13, 2019

Few districts have done as much as Wake County, N.C., has to keep its schools racially and socioeconomically diverse.

It is a battle that the school board says it has been losing.

Now, the

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These School Boards Wanted to Be More Effective, so They Went to Harvard – District Dossier

Nearly 100 school board members from 18 large districts descended on the Harvard Business School earlier this week to dig deep into a major existential question: how to be more effective stewards of their districts.

It’s the start of a unique professional development program for a group that rarely gets a lot of training—school boards—and marks the beginning of a new relationship between the venerable university and the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large, mainly urban school districts.

The council has worked with its members on capacity building, including by offering on-the-ground technical assistance and consulting, but

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Voter Turnout Drops for School Board Elections Where Charters Thrive

Most charters operate outside the purview of elected school boards, but the publicly funded, independently operated schools have rarely been studied for their impact on school districts as civic institutions.

Now, one of the first studies to take an empirical look at this question finds that the rapid increase in charter enrollment in Ohio in the earlier part of the decade appears to have modestly depressed voter turnout in local school board elections.

A 1 percentage-point increase in charter school enrollment was linked to a decline in votes cast in elections for school board seats of about 2.5 percent to

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Students on School Boards: Balancing Representation and Fairness – District Dossier

Earlier this week, I published a story for Education Week on the phenomenon of students with real, consequential votes on their local boards of education. 

As part of our exploration of how students experience civics in public school—beyond just their government classes—this story hinges on an imminently logical question: Students are affected by every board decision. So why do they seldom get a say on them? 

While it’s relatively common for students to serve in an advisory capacity, they very rarely get a full board vote. 

My story looked at this issue mainly from a conceptual standpoint. It also profiled

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Few Student Board Members Can Vote. Should That Change?

Senior Ananya Tadikonda, the student member on the Montgomery County, Md., school board, says the pledge of allegiance at the opening of the board’s May 30 meeting.

—Kaitlyn Dolan for Education Week

In the final months of her tenure on the Anne Arundel, Md., board of education, Josie Urrea doubled down on her efforts to dismantle the student ranking system she says promotes too much competition and stress among students.

Urrea’s hard-charging approach on a tough topic belies the fact that she is just 18 years old and one of only a handful of U.S. youths who hold full or

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Los Angeles School Board Takes Stand on Abortion. Should It?

The Los Angeles district’s school board has passed a resolution to “stop the bans” on abortion, an unusual move that prompts several broader questions for the nation’s more than 14,000 school districts: Should boards wade into divisive social issues? And how common is it for them to do so?

The resolution, approved as a special order of business May 21, is a clear rebuke to Alabama lawmakers, who recently passed a law banning nearly all instances of abortion in that state.

“This is an anti-choice movement that will particularly impact women of color and low-income women,” the Los Angeles

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Should School Boards Take Up Abortion, Immigration, and Other Social Issues? – District Dossier

The Los Angeles district’s school board has passed an unusual resolution to “stop the bans” on abortion, thrusting the district directly into the heart of a searing national debate about abortion—an issue the U.S. Supreme Court could choose to address in the near future.

The resolution, passed as a special order of business May 21, is a clear rebuke to Alabama lawmakers, who recently passed a law banning nearly all instances of abortion in that state with no provisions made for victims of rape or incest, and to other states that have moved to curb abortion.

“This is an

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Superintendents Under Fire: The Tricky Calculus of When to Quit

Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie survived a recent effort to oust him from his job over his leadership before and after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

—Lynne Sladky/AP

Superintendents sometimes find themselves the targets of angry calls for their firing even when there’s been no official finding of misconduct or wrongdoing.

Such a scenario has been playing out in the Broward County, Fla., district where a vocal contingent of critics has been calling for the dismissal of Superintendent Robert Runcie over his handling of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in which

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