This is basically a re-issue of an early December blog, but questions on Twitter indicate many missed it last month during the Christmas rush. So, here is an important story on school councils and School Based Decision Making (SBDM) as Senate Bill 7 gets ready to be heard in Frankfort.
Kentucky is the only state in the nation that basically has removed major control of its schools from locally elected school boards and instead transferred those powers to a school council established in virtually all the state’s regular (Class A1) public schools. The theory was that with parents elected to those councils, parent interests in the schools would improve.
But, it’s not working out that way.
For one thing, the school councils, by law, are always established so teachers in the school control the majority vote. Parents of students in the school do get to elect parent members to the school council; but, under current law, those school council parents are always a voting minority.
In essence, the local taxpayer and even the parents in the school have no real say on what happens in that school. It’s teachers in control, pure and simple.
And, parents, despite the intent to get them more involved in schools, are not being fooled. They know their representatives have no real say, and they are reacting accordingly during the annual elections for school council representatives.
The table below tells the tale.
The first line (green shaded) in the top part of the table breaks out data for schools where the number of parent votes cast in the SBDM elections was at least 50% of the schools’ student enrollments. As you can see, virtually no schools have such high parent voting participation. Even worse, the small proportion of schools with such high participation got even worse in the last two school terms.
More of the story is added in the pink shaded part of the top table. Over 71% of the schools saw parent voting numbers that were less than 10% of the schools’ enrollments. That statistic also deteriorated from 2015-16 to the latest 2018-19 data.
Even more disturbing, a notable percentage of schools have parent voting numbers that are less than 1% of their student enrollment. This statistic also shows further movement in the wrong direction over time, too.
The bottom part of the table shows the statewide summary of enrollment and parent vote counts for the school council elections. Statewide, the school council voting numbers are well under 10% of the statewide public school enrollment, and this statistic is also moving in the wrong direction.
Very simply, if school councils are supposed to increase parent participation, the voting history in school council parent elections indicate this whimsical school governance idea is a failure.
And, when even Mississippi is moving ahead of Kentucky in national testing, it is clearly time for the Bluegrass State to consider other, more accountable options for the operation of our schools.
Tech Note: Parent voting information was obtained through a request to the Kentucky Department of Education’s Division of School Data Services. This information is not currently online.