School Governance Councils

By Robert Rader and Patrice McCarthy

A new, largely parent-led initiative to improve the education of public school children has started in several states, and ultimately could affect how schools and districts are structured.

The initiative, which has resulted in the creation of school governance councils, could help districts as they focus on improving student achievement. The potential downside is they could become another state mandate that will blur and possibly erode the current structure of local school governance.

As part of legislation signed into law last spring, 14 Connecticut schools -- including a charter -- in five underperforming districts were required to establish governance councils. By Nov. 15, another 184 low-performing schools in the state will have to set up these councils, and former Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan has predicted they will eventually be in place in every school in Connecticut.

School governance councils have taken hold in California, where their authority is much greater than in Connecticut, as well as in Kentucky. The Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest district, also uses the model.

Much like other reform movements, judging their value will take time and careful evaluation.

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