This is a Hub Debate on the role of boards of education. For more background, read this. Participate in the comments or submit a response for publication to UtahPoliticoHub@gmail.com. The question is: “Who do you think the board should serve? Parents? Students? Why?“
In my mind, it is very clear as to who the board should serve.
The Board of Education should be focusing on the students as they are ultimately the consumers of public education. I don’t necessarily agree that their focus must be to help all students be “college and career ready” by the time they graduate but nevertheless the focus ought to be on the student’s needs.
Ultimately, public education needs to be focused not necessarily on preparing them for any particular outcome such as diving into the general workforce, but on basic skills, critical thinking and problem solving. I would like to see more of a “pick your own path” type of program as it comes to their education but it’s understandable when you consider the many constraints put on public education that limits their ability to provide that type of education.
But I digress.
Parents will make an argument that they are paying for the education (much of which is actually heavily subsidized by others, especially here in Utah) and therefore the board ought to “serve them” and cater to their needs.
But how do you exactly do that? What exactly are “Utah Values?”
What happens when the legitimate needs of the parents conflict with those of the students?
This is the same problem I have with teacher unions. Say what you will about them, but ultimately the main focus of teachers unions is on teachers. For better or worse, that’s their purpose and their goals are framed around protecting teachers. When push comes to shove, when you place teacher’s needs against those of students, the teacher union will always fight for the teachers.
The same would go when you have parent/student conflicts of interest and the board is solely focused on the needs of the parents. When push comes to shove, the focus needs to be on the students.
Parents do not always know what is best for their children, but they still ought to have the right to choose the type of education that their children receive.
The problem is, how do you provide this when there is so much divergence on parental viewpoints as it pertains to education?
Luckily, parents do have some choices as to how much “local control” they would like to have in their children’s education. On one end of the spectrum you have homeschooling your children which provides almost total autonomy as to the education that their children receive.
One of the key selling points of charter schools is the fact that they do provide much more control to the parents in regards to how the education is being taught to the children relative to their traditional public school counterparts. Of course, you still have private and your traditional public schools as other options as well.
The Board of Education ought to be focusing on the needs of the students as a whole. If we as parents feel as though the direction which the Board of Education is going is not in line with our “Utah Values,” we have plenty of opportunities to either vote for other candidates or choose alternative educational institutions that will provide us with those values we are seeking.