Some folks seem to think that an elected school board would make things better in Chicago, and while I understand the frustrations with the current system I'm pretty sure that the alternative isn't any better. Read below for an updated overview of the situation in LA, where they still have an elected board.
In Los Angeles, three of the seven school board seats are up for grabs in March. At times, such as during last week's candidate forum, the opponents manage to have a civil discussion and disagree agreeably. The turnout might get to 30 percent (if only because there's a Mayoral election being held at the same time).
But the candidates are proxies and pawns for a much larger battle going on behind the secenes. The unions and reform groups (who had a hand in recruiting candidates) are projected to spend $5 million on the race (it would be more but one of the three seats has a "consensus" candidate). The negative advertising -- mailers and flyers, mostly -- hasn't begun in earnest but it will soon. If recent elections are any guide, it will get nasty.
What are they fighting over? The union wants the School Board president out because she supports current Superintendent John Deasy, and charters, and teacher evaluations that include a measure of student achievement. (The union also feels like teachers have been subject to a media witch hunt over recent scandals regarding sexual predators in the classroom.)
The reform groups want former teacher (and TFAer) Steve Zimmer out because he thinks that charters should have better oversight and doesn't agree with Deasy on all things. They -- including outbound Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- don't want Deasy even more battered by the Board than he already is, or pushed out. (Even with a majority, Deasy has to share decisionmaking authority with a Board that can't help but want a say in all matters.)
Still want an elected Board? I'm happy to hear your thoughts. Maybe I'm missing something. Want to know more? Go over to LA School Report, the site I'm helping edit and run.