Corporate boards should emulate school boards

By Thomas A. Shannon

It took 25 years, but the tables are turned at last. Back in the 1980s, one of the wrong-headed proposals to improve public schools was to “reform” school boards by recasting them in the image of private corporate boards. The current recession suggests that we all would be better off now if corporate boards had acted like school boards.

The 1980s and 1990s were pretty good years for our expanding national economy. Governing corporations was a placid activity. Disputes usually were resolved quietly, with CEOs pushed out with “golden parachutes” amid little publicity, unlike the furor that was generated by the dismissal of school district superintendents.

At the same time, in a period of radically changing societal values, educational reformers were searching for more politically acceptable ways to measure student progress and to more successfully restructure programs to meet the challenges of teaching minority children. School boards faced a laundry list of challenges: growing pressures from anti-tax groups and aggressive employee unions, expanding immigration and the need to serve English language learners, intensifying political advocacy for tuition tax credits and charter schools, and the rapid expansion of technology.

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