Lack of funding is only a small part of the problem. Radical solutions such as school vouchers and charter schools are being bandied about in many areas as an alternative to bureaucratic and hidebound school systems. They are a clear indicator of the pervasive general feeling that something needs to be done about our public schools but both, if implemented, would decimate the public part of "public" schooling. While they might well work for individual children on a limited basis the eventual and certain result is the elimination of public control and oversight over education and the loss of a system that is intended to provide for all.
Therefore I propose a COMMUNITY BASED ALTERNATIVE that includes all of the innovation - including a wide variety of teaching methods - and the individual attention of private and charter schools while retaining public involvement and control.
Jurisdiction over elementary schools should be devolved to neighborhood school boards in an OPEN ENROLLMENT system in which parents can send their children to the school of their choice anywhere in the state. Local districts get an equal amount of funding, as far as possible, for each student. NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL DISTRICTS must accept neighborhood children first, they are subsequently free to accept as many other children as they can provide a quality education to. Wealthier districts can tax themselves to increase funding but must share additional taxes one to one with the state as a whole. They must also accept a minimum number of students from outside - it wouldn't be fair to allow them to increase funding then totally restrict out of neighborhood students.
NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL BOARDS consist of a combination of neighborhood, parent and teacher representation. I propose that local boards have two representatives elected by the neighborhood at large, two elected by the parents and one by the teachers. Election of parent and teacher representatives will be relatively simple and straightforward compared with neighborhood representatives.
At the present time setting boundaries of neighborhood school boards for election purposes will be problematical since neighborhoods are not officially recognized, at least not to the extent that they wield any significant power or control. Moreover conflicts exist in the fact that neighborhood boundaries sometimes overlap. Nonetheless in most cases neighborhood boundaries do exist and are recognized for limited purposes.
Another problem with setting boundaries for local school boards is that neighborhood boundaries seldom coincide with current school attendance boundaries. Moreover some neighborhoods have more than one elementary school while others have none. Regardless I propose that recognized neighborhood boundaries be used whenever possible. Considering open enrollment, funding based very closely on attendance, and majority parent-teacher representation on local school boards, the actual boundaries are not that important. Neighborhoods without schools will be grouped with the adjacent neighborhood school where the largest part of their children attend.
School attendance boundaries can theoretically used but since they seldom coincide with neighborhood boundaries that scenario adds a serious layer of confusion. After adding a neighborhood level of government, as proposed elsewhere in this platform, it would unnecessarily complicate matters to have local school boards with different boundaries.
School construction will of necessity have to be the responsibility of the state or larger school jurisdiction. It would not be possible for a small neighborhood to cover the cost of a new school. Moreover the need for new schools is a product of growth which seems more like a state responsibility. At any rate that cost needs to be spread out to a larger base.
LOCAL CONTROL will make public schools more responsive to citizen concerns and provide a better education at less cost, not to mention engender innovation on a scale impossible to even imagine within the current top-heavy bureaucracy. Each local school board will build on the special talents and culture of it's students, teachers and neighborhood to excel in it's own unique niche. Today we attempt to force all children into the same mold regardless of the vast cultural and social differences between them.
Open enrollment thus gives parents a wide variety of choices - though of course they will always prefer to send their children to their neighborhood school - and forces poor quality schools to improve. Below standard schools will be quickly abandoned by their students and forced to change. For this purpose the larger school board or possibly the state retains an oversight and support responsibility towards the local boards to guide them to improvement, though in most matters the local boards are completely independent.
Neighborhood control will allow innovations such as teaching k-2 children in small dispersed locations. Teaching of little children does not require or benefit by large edifices. Large single family houses located close to the children's residences are likely to be better facilities for educating tots, and it will be much easier for parents to get involved in that scenario. The space freed up in our large school buildings can then be utilized as community resources.
Control of middle schools
can be devolved after the results of elementary school devolution are assessed.
High schools may need to remain part of a larger system.
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