Although this chapter is primarily focused on the governance and finance of public schools, we will briefly describe other options that may be available to students. School choice is a term used to describe the school options that a student may choose to attend rather than your local public school. Schools might include magnet schools (schools focused on a specific vocational or academic strand i.e., music, arts, science), charter schools (public schools managed outside of state requirements by private entities) and virtual schools (schools where coursework is completed entirely online). Depending on where you live there may be a variety of options for students to choose from.
According to the New York State Department of Education website there were 292 charter school in operation serving approximately 130,000 students in the 2018-2019 school year. Advocates of charter schools believe that these schools provide an opportunity for students to learn in an environment that is not bound by traditional curricular mandates. However, proponents of public education believe that charter schools are part of a larger effort to privatize education. The Network for Public Education’s report, Asleep at the Wheel, outlines several serious concerns about charter schools including the misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars awarded to charter schools with little oversight and barriers to enrollment that do not allow equal access for all students (Burris & Bryant, 2019). The conversation over school choice, charter schools and efforts to privatize schools will be ongoing. As a teacher it is wise to stay up to date on these issues.
Link to the full Asleep at the Wheel report: https://networkforpubliceducation.org/asleepatthewheel/
Keep in mind that local, state and federal policies impact your work as a teacher and the available resources to help students learn. Advocating for policies and funding that reflect your philosophy and values as a teacher is important. Understanding your local school district’s policies and procedures is your responsibility. Maintaining positive relationships with all community members and keeping up to date on issues of community concern will help you make informed-decisions. Understanding how the school budget was developed and district priorities will assist you in answering questions form students and in advocating for educational resources.
Homework and/or Class Activity:
As discussed, the local administration and school board will have the strongest impact on the school and your work as a teacher.
- Select a school district where you might like to work. Go to the website and identify key personnel in the administration and Board of Education members.
- What is the district’s organizational structure? How many BOE members are there? What can you tell about the educational mission, policies and procedures of the school by examining this information? Are the BOE meeting minutes and agenda easy to find?
Write up a short summary of your impressions, thoughts and ideas after reflecting on school governance, organization and finance. Be prepared to share with the class.