WHO GOVERNS SCHOOLS
Education is closely linked to politics since its roots are wide and affect every facet of the society. Academic freedom has not been defined by the US constitution but the federal and the state courts have addressed this issue and it is strongly protected (Wilson, John and Meenekshi 4). Formal education cannot be compared with any other factor in governance since it experiences minimal changes regardless of whether it is in private or public institutions. It acts as an instrument in the establishment of the broader social order for those who wish to experience change or even guard the status quo. In the United States, formal education has been changing over the last decades and the current education system is different from the one practiced early in the 20th century. K-12 operates in about fifty states with five million employees and students exceeding 48 million. This system is very costly and takes close to 2 billion dollars daily. This is not standard as it is very reliable on the political dynamics thus it is bound to change very often. Schools and colleges are subjects of the increased politicization, glacial pace to change and these institutions do change and changes are expected even in the future (Guthrie 1-2).
Attention has also shifted to the post secondary educational institutions in an effort to use these institutions as significant features for the political landscape. A lot of research has been done to establish how the economy can be preserved while offering quality education. Student financial aid is one of the tools that have been used in this process. There are concerns as to whether the lower schools have received adequate attention as well (Guthrie 3). This paper discusses on the governance of schools and the politics that accompany this process. The dynamics experienced in politics are significant in the quality of education offered in the society. The federal and State governments have overpowered the traditional local system of school governance.
According to Adams and Rick (2-5), in the US, education is an individual state’s responsibility. States have focused their attention on the outcome that they are likely to gain from the education systems that they establish. Each state articulates the desired outcome to offer flexible procedures and processes to the districts, school administrators, the teachers and the students to ensure that they meet the expected standards. Each state balances its own local judgments with those of the state and this has prompted the authorities to use this as an opportunity to introduce reforms and transformations. Challenges come in establishing whether the resources employed are utilized to the maximum. For maximum utilization of resources, parties are required to use the resources that come in their possession efficiently. Policy makers have a keen interest in the assessment of educational systems’ efficiency. In the current systems, the spending levels have been expressed as per each pupil’s expenses. This system is inefficient since it keeps rising since there is no proper direct measure of what schools accomplish as defined by the outcomes achieved. It does not offer solutions as to how schools can change their mode of operation over time to meet the desired outcomes.
Lack of proper plans for the gradual changes has made it difficult to establish policies that would provide for clear gains in the educations system. Other key social goals have been undermined in the process. They include fairness and the freedom to choose the best system by institutions. Transformation is influenced by the dynamic political structures and this should not be the case. Change should be initiated based on the outcomes achieved and the expected results (Adams and Rick, 7). Each decade holds a unique plan and this is determined by the leaders in power at the given period. For instance, George W. Bush election victory was attributed to his education plan. However, any negative changes that may arise as a result of this plan may not be blamed on the president. The public can only complain on the issues arising like the meddling by the federal and insufficient funding. In such a scenario, feedback and change implementation cannot be assigned effectively to ensure that an improvement is made (Epstein 3).
Criticism of schools and blame will continue persisting as long as new governors and presidents come up with new varying resolutions every decade. Such proposals can only last for the duration that they are in power. With this sort of an arrangement, planning for the education system has become political; it triggers applause and is a tool to winning votes. In the end, there is no risk attached to the planned resolutions if they fail since the governors and presidents do not have direct control over the implementation of the policies. The chief state school officers are the ones who run the state education departments. They report to the state boards of education and not the governors. This has amounted to the confusion and poor accountability that has been experienced in the education system. Making the political figures fully in charge of these systems can be a positive move towards an efficient education system. A separate education government is not effective if these figures are not held accountable for the outcome experienced from the resolutions that they put in place. The challenges experienced are as a result of dominance by the political figures in the education system. The irony is that they dominate the education policies and leave the accountability to every one else (Epstein 4-5).
Direct political control promises greater visibility and accountability that will see the academic results improve. The management of programs that come before and after schools will also be effective. Challenges experienced in the school environment like teenage pregnancies among other social ills can be controlled effectively. Thus, the education system improves with the effective implementation of the policies. However the main challenge is holding the mayors, governors and the presidents accountable for the results achieved. Although the policies can be enacted and implemented in one term of office, the probability of evaluating the policies in the same term is nil. Therefore, it is not possible to determine the efficiency of the policies given that there is no guarantee for another term in office (Epstein 5). In adequate knowledge and technical properties does not mean that the education system is unpredictable or unmanageable. It only calls for great care in the implementation and exercise of these efforts to ensure that the current educational systems are efficient. The data and feedback assessed should be assessed and analyzed to determine the changes that can be put in place despite the accountability challenges that exist (Monk 22).
The role of Political leaders in the educational systems
Since the issue of accountability has triggered a new interest in the education systems, education politics has become a new reality (Sunderman 226). For the Mayors, there has been an increasing need to link the schools with other city services such as health and housing. This would make the mayors realize and plan for the future of their cities with education in mind. Since the education system is not an independent concept, other factors can be used to determine the faith of the public in the educational plans. The mayors can play major roles in the back office roles of the education system, support charter schools by proposing for new ones or convert the public schools which have a record of failure. They can also facilitate for the use of schools to reach the community for other services like health, day care among other community activities. This is a way of maximizing resources all year round and the mayors also get a chance to add value to urban real estate. Such involvement by mayors gives the parents confidence in public schools and may save them the expenses associated with the private institutions (Cooper, James and Lance 24).
The education system goals can be narrowed down to reach each individual student and widen the coverage in the society. The “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) which was re authorized in 2007 is an example of efforts by the government to promote fair distribution of resources. Funding decisions are associated with a lot of controversy and there is a need to reconsider some of the policy options. For instance, states that failed to focus more on the fiscal side did not succeed in reducing the resource gap between the needy districts and their more affluent counterparts. This raised the issue of whether the federal government is in a position to clear the resource gap or not. This is only possible if a systematic examination is adopted for the country to meet its 2014 goal of educating every child. Politics that are based on accountability have been facilitated by the expansion issue in education. In this program, the political leaders mainly the governors and the mayors are the key players. The high courts are also part of this plan that works at ensuring that the leaders are accountable for the plans and policies that they put in place. Increasing accountability among the political leaders helps in addressing the issue of income and racial disparity. It also solves the tension that exists between social redistribution and the decentralized governance. Accountability discourages the political figures from establishing risky policies and builds a commitment towards the intergovernmental system (Cooper, James and Lance 28).
Political Dynamics Evident in the Education system
Dating back to the mid-1980s, the education policy has experienced the most dynamics. With the K-12 education system there has been changes in curriculum and the standards of performance. There have been new assessment and accountability regimes adopted as well as new attractive programs fro the teachers in terms of performance and pay. These have contributed to the rise of and fall of numerous systematic reform efforts. The same dynamics have also been experienced in higher education in terms of financing. Public investment in higher education has gone down leading to the rise of private institutions. This has played a role in the performance and accountability reforms. The focus is not only on the inputs, but also the outcomes achieved. However concerns have been raised as to why states have embarked on policy changes. The education policy change significance in the US may have been contributed by social, economic and political differences that exist. However this is not well linked to the assessment of the input and output assessment that has been done. External factors seem to play a bigger role in the education system. It poses a risk that this trend will continue in future if a systematic approach is not adopted (Cooper, James and Lance 30).
There is a need for a continuous evaluation program that involves the political leaders if proper governance is to be achieved. Micro level systems which are influenced by the existing political powers should be dropped to adopt a systematic approach that involves all the stake holders in decision makers. This will serve the interests of the general public as well as the governments’ (Cooper, James and Lance 31). Good governance must involve maximum state and local discretion to promote investment by educators and systems that offer support in return. Lack of this exercise constrains the government in terms of enforcement or promotion of better educational practice with positive results. Another requirement for meeting the NLCB goal is the need for highly qualified teachers. While the governments argue that there is enough supply of qualified teachers, low income schools have suffered high teacher turn over rates. This puts the low income schools at a disadvantaged position when compared to the more affluent ones. If the states could focus on the more needy districts in fund allocation, then there is a probability that the teachers would be attracted to stay in the needy schools through the provision of incentives d other attractive packages. Such a strategy would help in closing the resource and achievement gap that exists between these districts (Epstein 9-10).
Finance equalization has not been achieved in most of the states as a result of the poor approach given by the federal policy makers. The needy students have not got the chance to access the mush needed access to quality education. Most of the funds end up in the schools where the students are already doing well and therefore keep them ahead of the needy students. The federal government should give an approach whereby funds are allocated according to each district’s needs. Funds have also been allocated to public schools to cater for the students who fail to progress academically for two consecutive years. There is also a prospect that the same should be applied on the private schools. However, since this should be used as a strategy to help public schools gain preference. The choice between the private and public schools has been promoted by supporting the public schools. It provides competition which is meant to increase the efficiency in schools. This has resulted in conformity rather than choice because rewards and punishments only attract students because of the financial support and not choice (Espain 11).
School boards have lost power over the governance of schools to the federal government. In the past, American education was rooted in the local policy, management and financial control which are traditions that are closely linked to the political culture. This has changed since 2000 and majority of the Americans want Washington to reduce its influence over the education system. It is feared that the NCLB program will change that and expand the federal power. The country is struggling on which way to go. Whether the country should be more centralized or whether federal control should reign with reduced discretion by the policy makers. The current democratically governed education system is slowly overpowering the traditional local systems. This is evident in the way higher authorities have lost confidence in the local decision makers. There is also a strong rivalry among states as governors want to use education just like tax breaks and other lures in an effort to attract business and employment. They use school funding to enhance equity and minimize property tax spending. The federal government is also focusing on centralizing more authority than it decentralizes (Epstein 15-16). The federal could concentrate on civil rights and financing while the local politics prelude the redistribution of these resources. This way, the educational needs of the society would be met efficiently (Sunderman 226-228).
The political dynamics experienced in the recent past have contributed to the increased federal power over the traditional local school governance. The educational resolutions have been used by the political figures as means to gain political preference. This has moved power from the educational school boards to the federal and sate governments who cannot account for the policies that they put in place. It has resulted in unequal distribution of resources especially in the needy districts. To ensure that the current trend benefits the American society academically, there is a need to increase accountability among the political leaders. This will ensure that once policies are en acted, they are assessed and evaluated to gain the desired results. These can be also used as a means to establish changes which need to be put in place to improve the education system. Since politics have a lot of influence on the educational systems, the federal governments should work closely with the school boards so as to have direct control over the policies introduced. This will promote efficiency and a quality education system.
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