A Democratic Constitution for Public Education

A Democratic Constitution for Public Education

Paul T. Hill and Ashley E. Jochim

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226200545

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


The book focuses on governance of K-12 public schools. Governance – the work of institutions that set the rules under which schools must operate – can protect children and prevent misuse of public funds, but it can also prevent teachers and principals from doing their best for children. There are proposals to simplify governance changing by giving control to mayors, eliminating elected school boards, or eliminating local oversight entirely. This book approaches governance from a new angle: who governs is less important than what powers government has. We propose system of “constitutional” limits on what local governing bodies can do, and checks and balances to enforce these limits. The core of the governance system is a local Civic Education Council, a representative democratic body that has unique but also strictly limited powers: to decide what organizations may run schools, but to let individual schools employ teachers and principals; to withdraw support from unproductive schools and to seek better alternatives for children; and to allocate funds to schools based on enrollment but not to create a large central bureaucracy. This maintains local control, but also limits the purview of government action. The book explains constitutional governance in detail and lays out its implications for parents, students, teachers and their unions, state and federal government and the courts. Later chapters address how the laws defining the new system could be stabilized by a combination of structural change in government and political organization.