A Political Scientist Runs for School Board
by Robert Maranto, University of Arkansas
In theory, citizens hold public schools accountable through elections and other democratic processes. In practice, political scientist and moderate Republican Robert Maranto finds that almost nothing important that happens in a public school system makes the papers. Moreover, by Progressive design, school board elections occur on bizarre dates with minimal press coverage, making it difficult for the public to hold public schools accountable. To the degree that citizens do participate in school board elections, their votes may reflect culture war issues or group loyalty rather than academic quality. Despite varying degrees of opposition from the business community, the teachers union, the local paper, and some Fundamentalist Christians, through hard work, good luck, and LGBT help Professor Maranto won 63% of the vote in a three-way race with double the usual voter turnout—6%. This won influence over the most important decision a school board makes, the selection of a new superintendent. Maranto suggests that running for school board definitely makes one a better teacher and researcher, and might help improve public schools, particularly where one’s fellow board members are reasonable public servants willing to compromise.