In major political cycles, it is a strong bet that most of the signs that I will see on the sides of roads and in yards will pertain to who is running for the local school board.
In my school system, all seats are up for grabs every four years.
They are elected by those voters who go to the polls and cast their preferences. Probably safe to say that many of those voters are parents of current or former students. Some parents are demonstrably louder than others.
Teach for 25 years in public schools there is no one entity that has as much of an influence over a school board’s decisions as parents. When parents get mad, parents call and show up to school board meetings. Just look at the last three years with the pandemic and look at some of those contentious school board meetings and witness who is the most vocal.
Who else has a direct influence over schools – a superintendent. How does a superintendent become the leader of the local school system? Hired by the school board who is elected by voters (and mostly easily swayed by parents, some of whom are demonstrably louder than others).
How does a school system get its local funding? Usually through the county or city commissioners.
Local budgets, allocation of funds, land and building maintenance or construction, etc – those people are elected as well. The school board and the superintendent go to the board of commissioners to ask for resources to help local school systems.
Elected people go to elected people for the sake of the school system. More parents vote for all those people than there are teachers in the school system. Some of those parents are demonstrably louder than others- maybe some have more time and more money to donate to political causes.
In the state of North Carolina, over 56% of the state budget is dedicated to public education, most of which goes to K-12 (and pre-K) education. It’s specifically stated in Article IX of the state constitution that the state establish a free and viable means of educating school age-children.
Sec. 2. Uniform system of schools.
(1) General and uniform system: term. The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.
Those lawmakers who are supposed to carry out that constitutional order and interpret it how they wish to? They are elected. Lots of parents in that voter pool. Some are demonstrably louder than others.
That same body of lawmakers controls not only the funding of public education but the curriculum as well.
What about the State Board of Education?
People who serve on the SBOE are elected officials themselves (Lt. Gov. & State Treasurer) or appointed by someone who is elected and then confirmed by a bigger body of people who are elected. Lots of parents in those voter pools. Some are demonstrably louder than others.
What about the State Superintendent?
The state super is the head of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
Those public school laws are made by elected officials to be carried out by other elected officials and those they appoint to work for them. On the local level, those school laws are enforced by local elected officials.
Ever see how DPI operates and who reports to whom?
Curriculum, funding, salaries, measures of school and teacher performance, benefits, per pupil expenditures, and physical school buildings are all in the hands of elected officials. More parents vote for those people than there are teachers in the state. Some of those parents are demonstrably louder than others.
If you think there needs to be more transparency in what is done in classrooms, then start looking at the syllabi and online repositories that all teachers use for students to have. Technology and social media have not only made things more accessible, but have made classroom activities incredibly transparent.
If you think that that the teachers’ union is running the schools, then please be reminded that NC is a Right-To-Work, At-Will state that has outlawed public employees to collectively bargain. That makes North Carolina one of a kind. It also has taken away due-process rights for teachers, graduate degree pay, and longevity pay for teachers. Add to that a court order to follow a funding plan that has been ignored by the General Assembly (LEANDRO). More parents vote for those people than there are teachers in the state. Some of those parents are demonstrably louder than others.
So when a bill like this is proposed in this legislative session…
…remember that parents in North Carolina already control most of what happens in our schools.
Some are just louder than others.
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