Removing Mich. boards' authority to make financial decisions is bad policy

Friday, March 7, 2014

As Michigan emerges from a decade-long economic collapse, publicly elected local school board leaders continue to grapple with the aftermath. Read or listen to the daily news anywhere in the state. The problems facing our local schools are not unique, nor are they easily resolved. But one constant is that school boards have been taking thoughtful actions based on many factors, including hearing from citizens who sincerely care about the education of their children and the well-being of their community schools.

Consolidations of operational and academic programs. Privatization of services. Teacher and other staffing layoffs and concessions. Program cutbacks, reconfigurations and eliminations. Building closures. Use of fund balances. These tough decisions are being made by the majority of school boards across the state, often in the face of strong opinions and equally strong opposition and, in some cases, have led to the loss of positions on the board.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, understandably frustrated by the ongoing fiscal problems felt throughout our K-12 system, recently suggested that it might make sense “to give cover to elected officials” by, in essence, curtailing local control and giving the authority to make these tough decisions to appointed superintendents. At first blush, Superintendent Flanagan’s idea may hold some appeal.

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