The Road to Trust

By Deborah Meier

In1930 there were 200,000 school boards in the United States. Today, with twice as many citizens and three times as many students in our public schools, we have only 15,000. Once one of every 500 citizens sat on a school board; today it's one out of nearly 20,000. Once most of us knew a school board member personally; today it's rare to know one.

During the years I spent on a school board serving a population of more than 100,000 and responsible for 20 different schools, I never expected my fellow citizens to recognize me on the street or to share their concerns with me. I had barely any firsthand knowledge about what went on in most of those schools.

It's no wonder that most citizens aren't concerned about the demise of public education: It's been a long time since education felt like a public enterprise -- except for who pays for it.

This shrinkage of public participation in school governance represents an enormous and utterly unnecessary loss -- for our kids' learning and their relationship with the adult world, for the status of public education, for the relationship between citizens and their government, and for democracy itself. It's at the heart of what's gone wrong with education and what must be changed. 

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