Local school boards may be the key to reversing American educational and economic decline. Educators blame school outcomes on poverty but public schools were created to overcome poverty and they were remarkably successful in doing so until the late nineteen fifties and early sixties. What changed and what can be done about it?
For forty years, ineffective public schools have flooded the population with voters who are low-information and without economic prospects. In this paper, Professor J.E. Stone highlights the impact of ineffective schooling; explains its causes; and lays out a practical solution to reversing American decline.
The heart of the problem is what economists call “regulatory capture.” Despite being publicly elected and singularly responsible for seeing that schools carry out the public’s aims, school boards frequently permit the district bureaucracy to advance its agenda and priorities at the expense of those desired by the consuming public. Through effective public relations, the control of information, and elective politics, district leadership and staff manage to select, shape, and pacify community leaders, board members, and their constituents.
Grassroots reform will require a modest but critical mass of consumers who will make the effort to inform themselves about local schooling facts and raise the awareness of their neighbors. As state accountability systems make improved local outcomes visible online, other communities will see a path forward and be encouraged to adopt similar strategies.