Last week, Robert Robb, an AZCentral columnist, wrote that “local control is mostly a façade and that there’s no obvious role for school boards and districts in such a system.” But we know that’s just not true.
The 1,100 school members representing every school district across Arizona will affirm the needs and challenges of their communities and how different they are from one another. Their decisions are reflective and in response to local needs and circumstances. School board members are locally elected public officials entrusted with governing a community’s public schools and such service is among the most important responsibilities a citizen can undertake.
People are entitled to their opinions and viewpoints, but that doesn’t make them true or factual. Why have school boards when we have school choice, when there is a shortage of candidates for school board seats or when meetings are described as a “soap opera” saga?
Because citizen oversight of local government is the cornerstone of democracy in the United States. It’s the foundation that has lasted through the turbulent centuries since our nation came into being. We use it for police, roads, firefighting, libraries, forests, the military – every government function. While they are all staffed by experts – superintendents, principals and teachers, in the case of school districts, they are all governed by civilians.
The school board role is a nonpartisan position and personal agendas must be left at the door. The role of the school board member isn’t easy, the election process can seem intimidating, and decisions must be made which aren’t always simple or popular. That may be why we see a shortage of candidates. But just because the work seems difficult or issues arise within districts, it doesn’t mean local control should be abolished as Mr. Robb suggested.
Most families continue to choose their local public district schools, which are required to take all students within their boundaries. The role of the board is to be responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of its community. It’s plain and simple: Communities need school boards.
Here at ASBA, our allegiance is to Arizona and our commitment to supporting and celebrating school board service is unwavering for a simple reason: When local decision-making thrives and governance is strong, open and effective, students win. That means Arizona wins. ASBA is proud to stand with Arizona’s school board members and support the critical work of local governance of our public schools.