What local control means today

The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by John Kline, R-MN, heard today from several educators and policy analysts on the challenges facing public education today. In announcing the hearing, a press release from the committee made no attempt to conceal its contempt for the growing federal role in education. But in her testimony, Lisa Graham Keegan, former Arizona state schools superintendent and education adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, urged caution before embracing locally controlled solutions versus top-down mandates.

“Where education is concerned, the most successful local action has had to develop outside the traditional confines of ‘local control,’ Keegan said. “Because, unfortunately, ‘local’ lost out long ago in school districts and ‘control’ took over … Ironically, true local control has moved to schools of choice, and true teacher leadership and potential exists outside the teacher contracts originally intended to empower their work.”

Empowerment was a major theme in Keegan’s remarks, particularly as it relates to creating entrepreneurs out of teachers: “When our nation first envisioned a system of public schools, the quality of the system lay in the hands of the school teacher. He or she was hired to create the school, lead the school, and manage the school. The effectiveness of the teacher leader has always been the most important determinant of success in any school. Over time, however, as systems began to centralize and hundred page contracts took the place of leadership, the role of the teacher has not become less important, but made less effective by illogical constraints”

Her entire written testimony can be found here.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit