No matter the political persuasion of people, it is generally agreed the boat of public education has serious leaks. The disagreement is over the right solution to patch those leaks.
I advocate what may seem like a radical approach. The solution is not to deprive the schools and teachers of the funding they desperately need, nor is it to privatize the system. Rather, my aim is in directly tackling the bloated bureaucracy of public education. I don't want to fix it, and I don't want to build on it.
I want to remove it entirely.
The biggest complaints about public education from the parental side tend to focus on perceived problems with the curriculum and the quality of teaching. Historically, organizations such as the PTA have allowed parents to hold a direct, if somewhat minor, role in the classroom. However, parent-teacher alliances are decreasing both in quantity and in influence. Simply put, parents feel shut out from their own children's education.
On the other hand, teachers face issues of their own: increasing class sizes, little curriculum control, a burdensome bureaucracy, a salary that is simply far below what they deserve and dwindling parental involvement.
Many things keep the problems from being resolved from federal encroachment to self-serving legislatures but most of all, the problem lies with the bureaucracy of school boards.
The average salary of members of county school boards is well into six figures. And for what? What benefit are they to the system? They control curriculum, discourage parental involvement, limit teachers' influence over their own classrooms and encourage a system of "teaching to the test," which ensures that the students look good on paper but learn little.
So let's rid the system of them.
Obviously there would still need to be a board able to exercise oversight of the schools, but who better to exercise that oversight than the school administrators and the parents? Let's create not one but three distinct countywide boards for each level of education: elementary, middle school and high school with school principals and an equal number of parents occupying seats.
The presidency of the board would rotate among principals and parents and would be on a serve-once volunteer basis to ensure fairness and limit undue influence over policy.
The benefits of this are direct and obvious: Millions of dollars in board members' salaries would be freed to go directly back into the schools themselves, parents would have a fair amount of control over their children's education, teachers would be allowed to teach, and, most importantly, the bureaucracy itself would cease to exist.
The one issue that would arise would be the managing of practical affairs of the system: school buses, janitorial services, utility costs, etc. But separating those affairs from the educational side of things would seem like a good idea, as well.
I have a large amount of respect for the work that school administrators and teachers do. In my experience the vast majority have been of the highest quality, with a distinct interest in providing the best education that they can.We just need to allow them to do it.
Jeffrey R. Wilbur is a junior majoring in social science at Southern Utah University.