Josephine Lucey, President of the California School Boards Association and a Cupertino Union School District board member, took on Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ controversial assertion that voter-elected school boards hamper sustainable school improvement. Lucey’s opinion, published on the San Francisco Chronicle’s open online forum, points out what Hastings seems to have forgotten, “Public oversight of local government is the foundation of American democracy.”
Hastings spoke at the 2014 California Charter Schools Conference in San Jose, Calif., on March 4. His talk spoke directly about the “good people trying to do good work” on school boards, but that the political process made it harder for improvements to stick. Instead, Hasting wants public school boards to elect their own leaders, much like a non-profit or private enterprise.
Turning to privatization of school boards, Lucey counters, would be akin to suggesting that publicly owned corporations have no responsibility to listen to their shareholders. Who is there to keep the board accountable if not for voters?
“About $61 billion in public money is spent on public schools in California annually,” writes Lucey. “To suggest that voters shouldn’t have a say in who runs their local schools doesn’t sound like America at all.”
As for Hastings’ declaration that school boards “oscillate” with turnover instead of improve, Lucey reminds Hastings that as one-time member, he should remember that California has dedicated school board members, noting, “As a former member of the California State Board of Education, Hastings should know that local school board member tenure is pretty high, as California School Board Association members average more than 8.5 years of service.”