Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Book on K-12 Education Governance Focuses on Changing the Jobs, Not the People

Paul T. Hill, author of the groundbreaking book, Reinventing Public Education, has developed a more explicit blueprint for transforming our nation’s schools. In a new book published by the University of Chicago Press, Hill and co-author Ashley E. Jochim lay out a plan for applying America’s greatest invention—constitutionally limited government—to public schools.

A Democratic Constitution for Public Education proposes a new governance system for K-12 education, featuring limited powers for local school boards and clearer and better-organized roles for other levels of government, all arranged in a system of checks and balances.

Local school boards are often bastions of infighting, dysfunction and favoritism. In a twist on conventional thinking, Hill and Jochim argue that school boards are chaotic, not because there is something wrong with the people, but because the job is too big and impossible to do well.

They propose that school boards become Civic Education Councils (CECs), with one responsibility: deciding which schools operate and are opened or closed in a city, based on need and performance. These councils would appoint a superintendent to oversee the school system, but the schools themselves would be granted autonomy in hiring teachers, setting budgets and choosing curriculum.

State boards of education and state education agencies would be responsible for maintaining educational standards and holding CECs accountable, while the federal funds would be tied to individual students, based on need.

Local councils, states and the federal government each would have unique, but limited, powers that check or balance at every level. This would replace hopelessly confusing “marble cake” federalism, under which state and federal governments meddle in all areas of school policy and the public response is mistrust and frustration with all levels of school governance.

The end goal: A viable K-12 governance system that is efficient, equitable, transparent, accountable and democratic.

"Serious minds at work. An original and plausible way to make public governance work for quality schools instead of against them." – Joel Klein, former Chancellor, New York City Department of Education

Paul T. Hill is a research professor at the University of Washington Bothell and former director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Ashley E. Jochim is a research analyst at CRPE. A Democratic Constitution for Public Education is published by University of Chicago Press. Order information can be found here.