[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Click to watch a video of this commentary, as part of Fordham's recent event Are School Boards Vital in the 21st Century?"][/caption]
The shortcomings of elected local school boards are only the most obvious of the many problems of education governance in the United States in 2011.? To be sure, those boards are a fundamental part, maybe the largest part, of our customary governance arrangements, but my discontent with them is just part of my larger dissatisfaction with all traditional governance and structural arrangements for K-12 education on these shores.
These arrangements, though they differ some from place to place, generally display four characteristics that make them obsolete at best and dysfunctional at their all-too-common worst:
First, while formal constitutional responsibility for educating kids belongs to the states, the actual delivery of that education falls squarely on local education agencies, typically called districts, which are geographically defined, most often by the boundaries of a city, town, county, or other municipality. Kids are generally educated in public schools operated by these districts.
Second, though states have shouldered some responsibility for financing public education, usually by decreeing a minimum or ?foundation? level of per-pupil spending, sizable portions of education revenue are locally generated through property taxes, bond levies, and such. Those amounts differ enormously from place to place within the same state and are uncommonly vulnerable to interest group manipulation...