What is the best form of governance for public education? Part 2

This is the second in a two-part series on public education governance by Utah State Board of Education member Dave Thomas, who represents District 4. Mr. Thomas is a former Utah State Senator and former Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education. His first post examines the data behind one of the leading reasons for the legislative push to change the governance structure for public education in Utah.

Partisan Elections v. Non-Partisan Elections  

Dave Thomas, Utah State Board of Education District 4.

As opposed to the elimination of the State Board of Education, as an alternative, legislation was introduced in the 2011 Legislative Session to change from non-partisan to partisan board elections.  There are many political reasons behind such a move.  However, one of them is not student achievement and reform. 

In the chart below, I have taken the remaining members of the Model II governance structure that currently have partisan elections for State School Board and compared them against the current Utah non-partisan system. I used the same categories as I did in my comparison with Model IV governance states in my previous blog post. The result? Once again Utah outperformed the partisan elected board average scores. 

What does this mean to public education? Obviously one cannot jump to the conclusion that non-partisan State School Boards do better than partisan ones in promoting student achievement. However, you can say that Utah performs just as well as partisan elected State School Boards. Which begs the question: Why risk changing a system that seems to be working?

* This is an updated graph posted 6/14/2011, using the Official State Departments of Education Graduation Rates instead of the Education Week graduation rates.

In the next blog post in this series, Mr. Thomas talks about diffusion of power as the cornerstone of our Republic.

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