Campaign 2013: Education's Insider Problem
This recent oped by former LAUSD Board members Yolie Flores and Marlene Canter has me thinking about whether education has an outsider problem or, really, an insider problem.
I'll leave the outsider argument to others, who have been repeating it ad neauseam -- and to reformers who've been falling into it over and over again (ie, disclosing a $250,000 campaign donation from Rupert Murdoch within 24 hours of primary day).
Let's focus for a moment on education's insider problem, in which public schools are invisible or inscrutable to anyone but those inside the system.
According to Flores and Canter -- good Democrats, both of them -- teachers, stakeholders, and community members used to working with them don't like it when their schools, systems, and the like are meddled with by anyone else. Their calls for democracy and local control are really just code for "go away."
Nowhere is this better illustrated than union leadership elections and school board elections, where the turnout is typically very low and thousands or even hundreds of votes make determine the outcome. According to Terry Moe, turnout for local school board elections is typically less than 10 percent. In places as big as LAUSD, that means that control over the school board can be won by board members who receive fewer than 20,000 votes -- in some cases fewer than 10,000.
Of course, reformers stand like deer in the headlights when accused of being outsiders, make weak apologies (most of them) about campaign donations or mutter something about it being a broken political system that needs to be fixed. But there's nothing particularly special about "insider" status, nor particularly awful about being an outsider -- especially when all it means is that you're doing or saying something that insiders don't like.
For futher reading: Terry Moe 2006 The Union Label on the Ballot Box Image via Education Next.