Taking Education Seriously: Governor, Please Sign SB 1014

Steve Novick

I have a confession to make: until this morning, I did not know that there was a ban on appointing professional educators to the State Board of Education.

Now that I know that there is such a crazy ban, I really, really hope that Governor Kulongoski will end it by signing SB 1014.

In today's paper, the Governor's spokeswoman said that he might veto the bill because he is concerned about "the need for impartiality among members of the board." I'm not quite sure what that means (with all respect to my good friend Anna Richter Taylor), but I do know that it is a bad idea to limit the amount of knowledge and understanding of actual, current classrooms on the board that makes major education policy decisions.

One of the biggest problems with education policy today is that too many people think they can become overnight experts. No Child Left Behind passed Congress with virtually no input from actual educators. The Texas Board of Education thinks it's just fine to rewrite history according to its ideological views. People think the key to success is "charter schools" staffed by people without teaching credentials.

In fact, all the recent research shows that education isn't easy; it is hard. Teaching a classroom of 30 kids with different backgrounds, languages and learning styles is one of the hardest things we ask anyone in our society to do. Studies show that throwing someone with a lot of subject matter knowledge, but no teaching knowledge, into a classroom is a recipe for failure. Finland, which leads the world in many measures of education excellence, does so by taking teaching seriously. As Diane Ravitch - an education scholar who has recently, dramatically abandoned her allegiance to the high-stakes testing / charter schools camp - said recently: “Nations like Finland and Japan seek out the best college graduates for teaching positions, prepare them well, pay them well and treat them with respect.”

If we recognize that educating children is a difficult, specialized discipline - and I am sure that Governor Kulongoski does - it makes no sense to prohibit current practitioners with that specialized knowledge from serving on the Board of Education and making policy decisions for every school in the State. It's like prohibiting anyone who works for an apparel company from serving on Nike's board. I mean no offense to the current State Board, a fine group of folks that includes a couple of retired educators - but I think the Board would benefit from having someone who has worked in schools in the post-NCLB environment.

Please, Governor, sign SB 1014.

  • Joshua Welch (unverified)

    Couldn't agree more Steve.

    Not long ago I was discussing politics w/ a conservative friend who I have known all my life. After I making one too many critical comments on American public policy, he informed me that America is the greatest country in the world.......a typical conservative response to valid criticism. Knowing that my friend knew relatively little about the vast majority of other nations, T asked him how he could make such a claim while knowing little about the rest of the world. The conversation pretty much ended there. My point is there is a large chunk of the population in this country which know little about the rest of the world but are dead certain we do everything better than everyone else and therefore have nothing to learn from the rest of humankind.

    Progressives/Democrats/Liberals need to do a better job of pointing out the international examples of progressive ideas working to create happy and healthy societies as Steve has done. The idea that making our healthcare system not-for-profit wasn't even part of the national debate reflects our tragic ignorance of the better European healthcare systems which are not-for-profit.

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    One would think a former teacher, school administrator, or school board member would be a fine addition to the State Board of Education. The rationale behind this "ban" needs more daylight.

  • Walpurgis (unverified)

    If the Guv doesn't sign the bill, one could always ask the Treasurer and/or Secretary of State to select an educator as their designee.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board." Mark Twain

  • Joe Hill (unverified)

    I had no idea that such idiocy existed. Imagine, prohibiting teachers from being on an education board. Jesus wept.

  • saxaboom (unverified)

    Anyone know the reason why professional educators have been prohibited from being appointed to the State Board of Education?

  • SwamiSam (unverified)

    By all means, let's give the teachers union control of the State Board of Ed also. Why should there be any part of the education establishment that isn't 100% controlled by the union?

  • Public Education Parent (unverified)

    Thank you Steve! To be clear the amendment that the Guv is concerned with simply ALLOWS but does not require a minority of the State Board of Education (capped at 2 seats)to have background or experience in public education. The Governor must still nominate the person (and is not required to choose that particular background)and the Senate must still confirm. The Governor should not be threatened by this idea. Maybe it would help make the State Board of Education more relevant in the long term vision for public education.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)

    Doesn't current law simply preclude CURRENT educators to sit on the board? Because it looks like about half the current board members have a background in education. They're retired, but still.

    And, the board has an advisory board that's made up of current educators plus and a student. Granted, they don't get a vote, but really, that's sort of the point of current law. Current educators who could financially benefit from Board decisions perhaps shouldn't have a vote. After all, remember when the PERS board was run by PERS beneficiaries. They credited all the gains in up years, and in down years, continued to credit 8%. Like it or not, it was very very bad fiscal decision making and was likely due to the fact that the board members financially benefited from their decisions.

    As to the argument that we need current educators to provide knowledge, I doubt very much that someone with no experience or knowledge of education would ever be appointed to the board. And to claim that current educators don't have enough input, when there is the advisory board, makes it even a weaker argument.

    All current law does is prohibit what appears to be a conflict of interest and keep the board independent by not allowing current educators to have a vote on the board.

    That's the real issue here. Not knowledge, or experience. Its who votes and conflicts of interest.

  • David (unverified)

    FORMER educators can sit on the board, just not CURRENT and ACTIVE educators/administrators. It is likely a throwback to the style of a local board, where current district employees are barred from serving on the school board that employs them (conflict of interest).

  • Kurt Hagadakis (unverified)

    Incredible. Definitely get rid of nonsense like this before the cancer spreads. I can just see some TEA gang arguing that there should be no scientists on a governor's panel to address Oregon policy toward climate change, since they're the ones claiming it is a problem.

  • Marvin McConoughey (unverified)
    <h2>I support Governor Kulongoski's veto of this bill. Educators are heard very often by the board, board members are pro-education, and every board member without exception has a background of practical experience in education. Unless, of course, one or more has never been a student.</h2>

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