Board's Eye View

A few months ago, chatting with my brother-in-law, a former executive at the National School Boards Association, I suggested we collaborate on a book called Saving School Boards.

There was a pause. ?Do they need saving?? he asked.

Head spin.

We've come a long way since the Kerner Commission (1968) concluded that the nation was ?moving toward two societies, one black, one white ? separate and unequal? (though many of our inner cities would beg to differ), but I do believe we have a two societies problem with regard to school boards: ?Love ?em or leave ?em.

Jay Matthews has a a typically terrific Who Needs School Boards? squib up on his Washington Post blog; this one highlight's a fellow scribe's new book, School Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise in Democracy. Its author, Gene Maeroff, a former New York Times reporter, ?made the sacrifice,? as Matthews says, ?of getting himself elected to the school board in Edison, N.J.? (where I used to live, not far from where the light bulb was invented). ?He is still there,? quips Mathews, ?enduring soporific meetings and nasty e-mails, convinced that, despite its faults, the school board as an American institution will survive.?

I feel his pain. I am now in my fourth year on my school board ? not counting the six months of horror I endured there at the end of the 20th century ? and ?endure? is certainly a...

The New Jersey teacher whose public confrontation with the Garden State's Governor in September has become ?a YouTube classic? (over 840,000 views as of today), according to the NY Times, is now front page of the Times ?and a poster child for the growing anti-union ?outrage? over public employee wages and benefits. The teacher, Marie Corfield, tells the Times:

People I don't even know are calling me horrible names ? The mantra is that the problem is the unions, the unions, the unions.

After reading the story, you might agree with poor Ms. Corfield's detractors. While New Jersey's average local government pensioner is earning less than $20,000 a year, the Times reports, its retired teachers are earning $46,000.? (Truth be told: Some police and firefighter retirees are pulling down six figure pensions.)

The clock on the pension bomb continues to tick, faster and faster?especially in the public sector. In California, says the Times,

[P]ension costs now crowd out spending for parks, public schools and state universities; in Illinois, spiraling pension costs threaten the state with insolvency.

The ?incestuous alliance? between public employee unions and their employers, as the Times characterizes it, is not much news for many reformers (see this comprehensive index in Education Next or just about anything Terry Moe has written). And you don't have to be a Peter Brimelow, author of The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions are Destroying...

?Monday is Cathleen P. Black's first day of school??so begins a provocative story by Elissa Gootman in the NY Times.?The Times asked some of New York City's ?most respected principals? to give the new Gotham schools Chancellor ?some advice.?

They do.

It's a terrific roundup of opinion?educated opinion. Let's hope Black is listening.

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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