Do We Need State Boards of Education and Departments of Education Anymore?

Jan 19, 2015 by

Sandra Stotsky –  Some political officials (Governor Sandoval of Nevada) and self-described policy wonks (Fordham Institute staff) are calling into question the usefulness of locally elected local school boards.  Governor Sandoval suggested replacing them with governor-appointed boards (, while Fordham has argued for regional authorities, possibly appointed by governors and/or legislatures (e.g., .  The question is ripe for discussion and debate.

In turn, we also need to examine whether we still need state boards of education, state departments of education,, and the office of state superintendent/commissioner of education, given the rising anger of parents and teachers across the country over the poorly composed Common Core standards and costly tests based on them that governor-appointed boards and appointed or elected commissioners/superintendents have imposed on local school districts.

How responsive to parents would a regional education board, appointed by governors in the region, be, compared to current boards and departments of education?  So far, there is no record of even one state board or department of education holding a meeting to listen to parents’ or teachers’ grievances about the Common Core standards and tests being imposed on their schools.  Is there any evidence that a regional education board would have spared parents and teachers the chaos and costs that current state departments of education have inflicted on their schools and the taxpayers in their state?

Do parents matter at all?  Not all parents behave responsibly in preparing their children for the discipline of a classroom and make sure they go to bed at the right time, sleep in their own bed every night, actually go to school every day, and do their homework.  Would an appointed regional authority be able to address these issues better than a locally elected school board?

Perhaps it’s time to rethink some quaint 19th century institutions developed with good intentions but which have outrun their usefulness.  Are most parents a better judge of the kind of education they want for their children than the US Department of Education?  Let’s vote on it.  What should be the qualifications for such bureaucrats if the majority want bureaucrats in Washington DC to decide.

On the other hand, suppose the majority want decision-making to remain local, but many parents are irresponsible. Perhaps we need public policies to address the problem parents.   This might be cheaper than implementing Common Core’s standards and tests.

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  1. Alaska Wonk

    Perhaps Jefferson was right?

  2. In the “developing” world, parent-funded free-market schools outnumber “free” government schools in many of the world’s poorest provinces – and deliver higher quality education at lower cost. Read James Tooley’s book “The Beautiful Tree” for more info.

    And before criticizing parents who allegedly do not prepare their children for education, ask who educated those parents? Is government education making the problem better or worse?

    • Cindy

      Glad to find someone else who has read Tooley’s book! Proof is in the pudding, and I would love to see a free market approach to education in the US.


  1. Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. | UARK – DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REFORM - […] Stotsky.  Blog on “Do We Need State Boards and Departments of Education Any More?  January 19, […]