Public educators must live with public policies

Education leaders need to get over their aversion to education policy, writes Rick Hess, who’s been teaching at Penn and Rice.

I had smart, talented leaders complain about ill-conceived accountability systems. About pols who weren’t willing to spend enough on schools. About why pols don’t listen to them or ask their advice. About how the pols ought to stick to their own business, and let educators run the schools. In general, the view was that policy is something done to them by meddling pols who don’t know their place.

Get over yourselves, advises Hess.

. . . Public schools spend public dollars and hire public employees to serve the public’s children. For better or worse, they’re going to be governed by public policies.

This isn’t new, he writes. Public policy always has determined spending, class size, subject matter and teacher qualifications. People notice it more now because there’s “substantial dissatisfaction with how schools are doing and with the effects of these older rules and regs.”

If you were an elected official and were responsible for elementary schools where only half of kids are reading at grade level and high schools where only fifty percent of students are graduating, it’d be pretty understandable (and laudable, even) to think you can’t simply trust the educators to do the right thing.

If you think educators should run public schools as they see fit, you have to believe that generals should set national security policy, police should write criminal law, doctors and pharmaceutical companies make health policy and bankers to regulate banking, Hess concludes.

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