members are responsible for a variety of responsibilities during their terms of governance. They must set budgets
and school policies, determine long-range planning and assess school performance. This governing board decides which schools will close and the best ways to help students achieve. It stands to reason that members elected to these boards should receive some type of training to assist them in conducting school business. However, school board member training is not without its share of controversy, which we will discuss in this article.
The Importance of School Board Training
, voters seem united in their desire to see school board properly trained for their roles. A recent survey published at the Michigan Association of School Boards website
showed that as many as 30% of the 600 Michigan voters polled gave their current board members a "C" in terms of their recent performance. In addition, the survey found the following:
- Two-thirds believe that school board training should be mandatory.
- The vast majority support training within one hour of the local school district.
- About half oppose training on a national level, preferring local training.
- Almost two-thirds said they would be more likely to vote for a potential member who has had training.
- Three-fourths said they had more confidence in the decision-making ability of the board if members had received appropriate training for the job.
- Half believed the top priority for school board members was improving student performance.
- 80% thought that training was necessary to allow school board members to administer their responsibilities according to the law.
By the results seen in this survey, it appears that most voters would prefer that school board members receive training, either prior to their election or directly after. However, school board training is not a consistent process, leaving many local school districts in a quandary over the best ways to train their board members – and the source of the money
to pay for the training.
Training Lax in Georgia
According to a recent report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
, school board members are required to receive annual training. New members must participate in 12 hours of training, while current members should receive six hours of refresher training every year to stay abreast of current trends and policies.
However, state records show that as many as 100 board members may not comply with the required training in any given academic year. With many new board members expected during this election season, the state is taking a closer look at their requirements, as well as the best ways to enforce them.
Lawmakers are currently working on legislation that will require potential school board candidates to commit to the training requirements before their names can go on the ballot for election. Lawmakers are also currently discussing the type of training school board members should receive.
Currently, the large majority of training comes through the Georgia School Boards Association or GSBA, with money directly allocated for training. However, when the funds lost their specific earmark, they gradually were rolled into regular school funding, leaving school board training without the necessary money to continue. That policy will need to change if school board members are to receive the necessary training without exception.
Conflict Over Training in Texas
also provides training to school board members elected in the Lone Star state, but not all board members are happy about the training provided. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News
, training is mandatory for all school board members, but the content included in the training program is not state-mandated. This has left many school board members concerned whether the training they receive is keeping them from voicing their views and concerns over current school policies. They are also worried that the training encourages them to side with the district superintendent in all issues, rather than providing the accountability that all school districts desperately need.
Ron Price, a former Dallas ISD trustee told the Dallas Morning News, "It's a great program to train boards how to be a rubber stamp. But it's not a good program for board members to represent your constituents. Many school board members across the country call it a brainwashing session." The training, which encourages school boards to make unanimous decisions and support their superintendant, has been controversial enough that some school board members have refused to participate.
While school board training appears to be supported by the majority of voters, the type of training is essential to building confidence in both school board members and the general public. Without guidelines in place upon which the majority can agree, it appears the debate over school board training is not over yet.