Education Professionals and Non Professionals Running Schools

So my thing to wonder about today is the various attitudes about non-education professionals in education. Specifically it seems that a lot of education professionals attack people like Bill Gates and other would be school reformers from industry and politics for their efforts. They say these are not professional educators and so should stay out of things. OK I can see that line of argument but here is the rub. Most of those same people are strong supporters of local school boards whose memberships are totally made up of, wait for it, non education professionals.

And in fact my experience is that most school board members do less homework and study about education that the big name non-education professional “reformers.” Anyone else see the contradiction here?

Now I have spent time on a school board, six years on the board of a private Catholic K-8 school, time on a public school budget committee (an elected position BTW), and 9 years as a classroom teacher. I’m not sure that makes me an education professional but I do think it makes me more aware of the issues than the average person. And based on those experiences I have concerns about the way we fill school boards for public schools. Some concern about private school boards as well but actually less because the process of selecting board members is very different. But that is a topic for another post.

What I want in someone who makes policy suggestions/decisions for schools is someone who knows what they are talking about. Ideally they read a lot, talk to a lot of people who are education professionals, and have some experience in the classroom – not as a student. This does not fit most school board members but except for the classroom experience does fit a lot of the business and political people who are interested in the issues. So why do people who oppose them support local non-professional school boards? I have a theory.

School boards get almost all of their information from the professional running the school/district. The control of information is the control of the agenda and for the most part of the decisions. The result is that the professionals largely control the board’s decisions. You can see why the critics of school reforms would like this. Educated free-thinkers are generally not welcome on school boards. By controlling information to other interested groups (the PTA can be a very powerful force especially in small town elections) superintendents can often help make sure that board members who disagree with them have a short tenure in office.

Am I being cynical? I don’t think so. I think that many educators who oppose outside reformers and yet support non-professionals on school boards do so only because they know that opposing any sort of outside control is doomed to failure. having ignorant school boards is the next best thing, in their eyes, than no school board at all.

Am I wrong? I’d love to hear (read) a better explanation.

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