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Opinion: St. Louis Should Consider Having School Board Members Appointed By The Mayor

January 24, 2018 Education, Featured, Politics/Policy No Comments
Former Arlington School in North St. Louis is now residential

When I wrote the recent Sunday Poll my thought was that we should always elect school board members — I’ve never lived anywhere otherwise. Then I began researching the subject and discovered many big central cities have school boards appointed by their mayor. Of course, this doesn’t make them better or worse than an elected board — just different.

The Post-Dispatch reviewed the pros & cons of elected, appointed, or a combination board in November:

Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Cleveland all have appointed school boards. Nationwide, appointed boards are either selected entirely by the mayor or by a combination of the mayor, governor or local elected officials. Here, the governor, St. Louis’ mayor and president of the Board of Aldermen each appoint a member to the SAB. The number of people on an appointed board ranges from three in St. Louis to six in Chicago and 14 in New York.

Wong found that appointed boards improve academic performance and district management. Appointed boards have also been better than elected boards at tackling systemwide priorities such as achievement gaps or graduation rates.

“The appointed board is primarily suited if the city really wants to head-on confront tough challenges and if they really want to push for some of the changes faster,” Wong said. (Post-Dispatch)

I don’t know that an appointed board is right for St. Louis, but it’s worth considering. Of course, I think the entire St. Louis region needs to reconsider much of how it’s governed.

Here are the results from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q:  Agree or disagree: The board appointed to run St Louis Public Schools did such a great job we should abandon electing board members

  • Strongly agree 3 [15%]
  • Agree 3 [15%]
  • Somewhat agree 2 [10%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [10%]
  • Disagree 5 [25%]
  • Strongly disagree 5 [25%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

The number of responses was lower than usual, I didn’t even vote. Still, more than half support electing school board members.

— Steve Patterson


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