For those of us who thought that the political conventions might bring to the presidential campaign a modicum of calm, rational discourse about the policies our country, particularly its schools, needs to move forward, it’s been disappointing to instead get…a school board meeting. (Well, at least until the amazing Michelle Obama brought down the house last night.)
Most of the convention action has reminded me of the yelling and histrionics of a school board meeting, just without the stuff about actual schools.
What were we thinkin’? It’s not like presidential campaigns are ever heavy on rational discourse…or schools.
But here in Colorado at least, there is an important November race that’s all about schools. Three of the seven seats on the Colorado Board of Education are up for election. This Chalkbeat story on last month’s primaries has a good rundown.
And here are 5 reasons it’s an election worth your time, if you care about Colorado’s schools:
- States run the show now. When Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act last fall, it shifted the bulk of school-oversight responsibility from the nation’s capital to each state’s capital. The final ESSA nuts and bolts are still being sorted out, but it’s clear that the new law will mean that the Colorado Board of Education makes key decisions on how school accountability, like this one on how the academic performance of student “subgroups” will affect school ratings.
- The board majority is up for grabs. Republicans currently control the board, 4-3. Education politics don’t always follow party lines, as we’ve seen on school choice and the Common Core, but the current majority takes a pretty dismissive stance against test-based accountability and Common Core-aligned standards. That could shift, either way, with this election.
- This sticky, confusing “local control” issue. The board majority trumpets local control, but then overrules local district decisions, like Aurora Public Schools’ move to close a woefully underperforming online charter school, saying that it should stay open because some families chose it. Which strikes me as a slap in the face to both the local school board and to us taxpayers who have to keep paying for a school that’s not doing its job. So don’t buy the line that the state board, as it stands now, isn’t going to stick its nose in how your local district runs its schools.
- CDE’s revolving door. The state board hires the state education commissioner—essentially the superintendent who oversees all of Colorado’s schools. We’re now on our fourth different education commissioner in the past year, and that turmoil has pushed many key leaders at the Colorado Department of Education out the door. The post-election board needs to stop the spinning and restore stability in leadership and direction.
- School board elections are the unsung players on election day. They get the least amount of attention but probably matter the most to shaping the future of any community. And because of where Colorado (and the nation) is in its education policy-making, the stakes are especially high this November.