Cubicrats, Swamp Tonic, and Appointed School Directors – A Recipe for Declining Public Schools

Cubicrats, Swamp Tonic, and Appointed School Directors – A Recipe for Declining Public Schools

Guest Editorial By David Seal

For the past few decades, public schools have been systematically damaged by government. That same government claims to seek remedies to repair the damage it has inflicted, a lose-lose proposition.

Public schools are funded in large part by state and federal funds, and with this funding comes state and federal control, enter the “department of education”, a cluster of government bureaucrats that work in cubicles in Nashville and Washington D.C. I call them “CUBICRATS”, most of which dictate damaging policies to local schools. Consequently, a growing number of parents are removing their children from public schools, choosing instead homeschooling, un-schooling, or private schooling. For years, higher education professionals have noticed a decline in academic preparedness, a clear indicator of failed policies.

Cubicrats and the Administrative State

Education cubicrats are a mutated breed of bureaucrat, an invasive species that absorb financial resources that could be put to better use by local schools. They are power seekers that constantly manipulate information to justify their existence. Cubicrats are not wired to operate in the best interest of schools, and incompetent to make public education policy. Under the authority of the legislative branch of government, cubicrats advance trendy solutions to make it appear as if they are solving achievement problems in public schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cubicrats steer education away from the fundamentals of good teaching. A few of their dismal failures include No Child Left Behind, teacher evaluation models, Race to the Top, Common Core, and standardized testing. Cubicrats have robbed schools of academic freedom and teachers of their time to collaborate with their peers. Post-secondary preparation, student creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills have suffered as a result.

Legislative Delegation

Cubicrats represent the worst of the administrative state; and few people are willing to stand up to them. Each year, Tennessee legislators provide cubicrats with more and more power over local schools, a destructive delegation of legislative authority. Within the Education Improvement Act of 1992, state legislators took damage to a new level when they removed the choice of school director (Superintendent) from the voting public.

Adding to the damage, the national news media and special interest groups deserve the blame for painting a sour picture of education that dates back to the late 1970’s. They featured stories of high school graduates that were unable to locate the United States on a globe, and pushed their agenda with statistical anomalies. Test publishers and their lobbyists could smell blood in the water.

Swamp Tonic

Subsequently, governors, state and federal legislators, and university education programs fell victim to the swamp tonic that was being sold as a cure-all for the ills of public schools. Accountability and standardized testing became buzzterms for elected officials unwilling to address the fundamental causes of underperforming students and double digit drop-out rates, essentially fake remedies for injuries inflicted by the state itself. Completely ignored were the students and their role in taking responsibility for their own education. Every education reform measure to date is compensation for a subset of students that cannot be persuaded to perform academically and take advantage of their God-given opportunities. Appointment of school directors became just another fake remedy.

Appointed School Directors

At the insistence of special interest groups, legislators made school directors appointed under a set of false assumptions, one of which is that appointed directors would not be subject to political pressure, or exert political pressure on subordinate staff. The job is a political one, period. School directors have the power to control a high percentage of municipal and county funding and manage a large number of employees, again, political.

Appointing (instead of electing) does nothing to protect subordinate workers from administrative misconduct or outright mistreatment. In fact, appointed school directors serve at the pleasure of the elected school board, actually concentrating political power to a select few. In theory, school directors are indirectly chosen by voters through elected board members. The agricultural equivalent of this is akin to providing the chickens with more food by giving the horses more oats. In practice, the public has no real voice in choosing a school director.

Elected school directors are more likely to be grounded in the communities they serve, are more accountable to taxpayers, represent decentralized power, and are more connected to their voting constituency. State and federal legislators should eliminate wasteful bureaucracy and return control of public schools to local citizens. For the sake of our students and education stakeholders, I hope Tennessee can lead the way in returning to elected school directors.