OPINION: Elected school board members must have say on curriculum

Renewed attention to who controls curriculum decisions is the equivalent of the sun starting to peek through the clouds in the stormy debate over the teaching of race in Kentucky’s public school classrooms.

In well-intentioned but poorly executed efforts to bolster parental engagement and local control of schools, the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990, which is still in force, shifted much of the authority for curriculum, personnel and finances from locally elected school boards to School-Based Decision Making Councils (SBDM).

Unfortunately, KERA mandates the councils’ staffing ratio must be three teachers to only two parents.

The SBDM experiment not only relegates locally elected school board members to the sidelines when it comes to critical decisions about what’s taught in schools, who’s teaching it and how dollars get spent, but it also hobbles parents, preventing them from exerting any real control.

No wonder parents in many schools show little interest in serving on these councils.

Such an approach fails to adhere to democratic practice or contribute to creating true partnership and local control in the education decision-making process.

Will the current brouhaha over the teaching of issues many relate to critical race theory (CRT) be enough to finally cause lawmakers to dump the failed SBDM model and return proper educational authority to citizen- and parent-responsive locally elected school board members?

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