Since at least the mid-1990s, Kentucky’s public schools have used a unique method of school governance built around the concept of School Based Decision Making (SBDM). This concept provides an amazing amount of power to a council located at each school to direct many important matters such as selection of curriculum, finally determining how the allocated money will be spent, and selecting school staff.
Cheered by some, reviled by others, the school council concept now has more than a 20-year history in Kentucky, and problems are definitely showing.
For one thing, despite claims that this provides for local control at the school level, the truth is the law explicitly requires teachers to make up the majority of each school council’s membership. Parents are ALWAYS a minority. Since a simple majority rules in all school council votes, it is clear that Kentucky’s parents really don’t have “local control” with school councils. Moreover, local taxpayers and non-parent citizens have no representation at all even though they still pay the taxes that support the school. Even more surprising, locally elected school board members and the local school superintendent are remarkably restricted in their ability to control what happens in schools, raising serious questions about effective oversight.
And, these issues among others are no longer a secret in Kentucky. In this video Kentucky Senator John Schickel briefly outlines some of his major reservations about this unique approach to school governance, setting the stage for further review and possible updating of this policy by the Kentucky Legislature.
Comments from other speakers appearing with Sen. Schickel will appear in subsequent posts.