The D-News’ John Florez says here that the very structure of our education system stifles innovation and prevents the kind of changes required to meet the needs of students in today’s world. Florez discusses how the various parties involved have created the unwieldy behemoth of a system we have today.
Florez’s article springboards off the current issue of “Provo School Board member, Sandy Packard,” who is being stonewalled by the bureaucracy in her attempt to fulfill her duty to oversee finances. Having studied organizational behavior and having worked in government bureaucracies, the district is simply doing what bureaucracies do: erecting “bureaucratic barriers government agencies create to protect and insulate themselves from public scrutiny.”
Locally elected school boards often create their own barriers or accept ones suggested by the bureaucrats. “Professional education administrators,” says Florez, “have created volumes of policies and procedures to pump up school board member egos and "protect" them from having to make decisions.” Many school boards won’t let a board member bring up any issue without consent from at least one other member. This prevents one malcontent from dominating meetings, but it also stymies discussion of important matters.
Districts are not the only problematic part of the equation. Florez asserts that “legislators unknowingly contribute” to the problem. By proliferating legislative committees that seek to increase accountability, they actually “dilute the responsibility so everyone and no one is accountable for whatever the education system is supposed to produce.” I’m sure that legislators take a different view of this.
Voters also fall into the crosshairs of Florez’s blame thrower. “[I]f you ask most citizens to name their board representative, they would draw a blank.” Presumably most voters also have little idea of what their board members do.
The whole system works together to prevent positive change. So what solution does Florez propose? Well, he doesn’t really propose any solution other than to say that we need a governance structure that can adequately respond to the constantly evolving need for educational change. That paints a lovely warm and fuzzy picture. I guess Florez might respond, “Hey, I pointed out the problem. Let somebody else come up with the solution.”
Florez does include two specific pieces of advice. The first is that partisan school boards won’t change the underlying problem. The second is that we need to get rid of local school boards. They’re a sham anyway, he says. And replace them with what? Oh, I know, let’s have a single district at the state level. Well, hey, if a high level district is good, why not just have one big national district? Well, gee, maybe because huge monolithic government programs are the least efficient most unchangeable organizations on the face of the earth.
If you want an educational system that is flexible enough to meet the needs of students in a modern world, the answer is more local control and less high level control, not the opposite. The ultimate local control is personal consumer choice. We ought to be considering how to get closer to this goal, not further away from it.