Strong local accountability matters in state school funding bill

The Boston Globe recently editorialized against an amendment to the Student Opportunity Act, legislation to update the state school funding formula. The amendment clarified the original intent of the bill and strengthened local accountability.

In response, CPS Testing Policy Circle member Jennifer Debin wrote this letter:

The disagreement over accountability language in the education funding bill is simple: Do state officials know better what should happen in schools, or do local educators?

If state officials have all the answers, it makes sense for them to overrule local decisions and impose policies. That’s the approach since No Child Left Behind, and results are lackluster.

In contrast, people who know the children by name have good ideas about how to help them learn.

The original language was ambiguous because it said local districts should change their plans to suit the state, but what if districts decide their plans are better? The amendment made clear that the state advises but local people decide.

Local leaders aren’t always perfect but, unlike with the state education board, there are democratic mechanisms in place if locals don’t agree with leadership: vote for change, join school advisory councils, run for school board or other office. The experience of the last 20 years — a narrower curriculum, wider achievement gaps — proves state mandates aren’t the answer.  

The amendment made it so local plans respond to a district’s needs by requiring local leaders to listen to the community. I urge the House to agree.