Reed Hastings is wrong: A school board member’s defense

By Matt Haney, San José Mercury News, 03/14/2014 [n.b. see “Charter Schools goal: Get rid of School Boards'” on YouTube for an excerpt from Hastings’ statement]

Earlier this month, in a keynote speech before the California Charter Schools Association, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called for the end of democratically elected school boards.

As he put it, the “fundamental problem” with school districts is that they “do not get to choose their boards,” leading to poor long-term planning and less stable governance. He then announced a goal to grow charter schools in California from 8 percent to 90 percent of all students, essentially eliminating the role of elected school boards and replacing them with privately appointed charter boards.

Hastings isn’t just doing his best impression of Frank Underwood from the Netflix show “House of Cards.” He is a billionaire former member of the California State Board of Education, and he is part of a powerful national movement to reduce the role of local school boards and rapidly grow corporate school governance.

So it is important to make something crystal clear: School boards are not an anachronistic carry-over from the years of the one-room schoolhouse. The role of school boards is inextricably linked with the very existence and purpose of public schools.

School boards exist because public schools belong to and are directly accountable to the communities they serve. That is what makes them public.

When a perspective is missing from the board, a community can elect someone to represent it. When the curriculum, budget or policies don’t reflect the values or priorities of a community, such as discipline policies that push out black and Latino students, the people can change that.

Bureaucrats or benevolent billionaires alone will never suffice. Without elected school boards, there is no accountability to the community. It doesn’t work perfectly, but that’s our collective challenge as a democracy. As Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Charter boards, often comprised of the wealthy and connected, are no guarantee of sound long-term planning and governance either. Just as there is no evidence that charter schools outperform district schools, there is no evidence that charter boards are more effective, informed or strategic than elected school boards.

In fact, poor financial management has plagued countless charter boards. Even at their best, they are structured to focus on their financial or organizational interest rather than the public interest. …

read more at San José Mercury News


EPLC EDUCATION NOTEBOOK Monday , December 9 , 2013

EPLC Education Notebook, December 9, 2013

…The Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate reconvene in voting session on Monday, December 9 at 1:00 PM.

House of Representatives

On December 3, the House Education Committee held a hearing to discuss teacher tenure and economic furlough legislation, specifically the proposals in House Bill 1722 (Rep. Timothy Krieger, R-57), House Bill 1735 (Rep. Ryan Aument, R-41), and House Bill 779 (Rep. Seth Grove, R-196).

HB 1722 would amend the Public School Code to allow districts to furlough for economic reasons that require a reduction in professional employees. Districts would be permitted to base furlough decisions first upon performance evaluation within the employee’s areas of certification, then by seniority. HB 1722 would also increase the time it takes for a teacher to receive tenure from three years to five years.

HB 1735 would amend the Public School Code to allow districts to furlough for economic reasons as part of a plan to reduce or control school district costs. Educators rated as “distinguished” in their most recent performance evaluation under the new teacher evaluation tool would be the last to be considered when furloughing and the first to be considered when reinstating. HB 1735 would not take effect until July 2015 when the new evaluation system is fully implemented.

HB 779 would amend the Public School Code to allow districts to furlough for economic reasons based upon educational program needs, the employee’s professional certifications, or performance evaluations within the affected program area. Reinstatement would also be based upon multiple factors and qualifications.

All three proposals would prohibit a collective bargaining agreement from including provisions that conflict with the legislation….

For more information, links, and comment on these controversial bills, see EPLC Education Notebook, December 9, 2013