At the last school board meeting I congratulated successful candidates and thanked over 5,000 voters supporting our campaign to enhance school governance. (Nov. 15 LBUSD.org podcast -19:40 and 38:01).
Our campaign ended with a sense of accomplishment for giving voters a real choice. We united a large new constituency that includes younger parents with civic literacy about school governance, advocating local reforms in budget, curriculum, staffing and community-relations to make our good schools even better.
Still, more voters embraced calls to “protect” the status quo and preserve social sameness on the board – as one candidate openly urged. That exclusionary candidate profiling instead of an inclusive narrative even encompassed local “fake news” coverage. Didn’t change results, but enabled us to understand better how Hillary felt the next morning!
In contrast, we went to the beach! Felt good about a campaign on issues and ideas, not defending a social order perpetuating an under-performing school board. As we predicted, the outcome demonstrated impressive block voter discipline by the school district establishment (school board, district staff, PTA, Schoolpower).
Perhaps it’s all for the best, because I would’ve made the board and staff work a lot harder than any of them signed up to do! These are good people we support when they get it right, but too often the board fails to act independently of special interests entrenched in our public school system.
Undue dependence on the “education industrial complex” has led to over-reliance by highly paid senior staff on consultants spoon-feeding the board off-the-shelf work product imported from school board lobbying networks in Sacramento. Instead of local control and standards, we import the culture of institutionalized mediocrity that has left schools in the wealthiest state ranked 47th nationally.
As a result, our local schools cost taxpayers as much as private schools, but by high school our students are outperformed by comparable public schools locally and statewide spending half as much per student annually. To do better we need a board with diversity of experience and skills, not cookie cutter sameness.
I remain hopeful our teachers, students, parents will continue to outperform the School Board, in schools that could be even better if governed more competently. I am even optimistic the board will try to do better, and when they do as always I will be among the first to recognize and praise them for it.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach