K12 public schools tend to have a love-hate relationship with democracy. On the one hand, public school leaders often disparage politics, partisanship, and constituency representation in favor of scientific expertise, non-partisanship, and the interests of kids. On the other hand, those same individuals may publicly claim legitimacy from employing the machinery of democracy, including elections, public participation, and transparency.
iSolon.org’s K12 Democracy Project seeks to strengthen the democratic characteristics of public school systems. Specifically, it seeks to enhance K12 democracy in one area: the use of new information technology to strengthen K12 democracy.
Of the dozens of public policy institutes that have programs on education policy, none focuses on making public schools a more democratic institution. iSolon.org doesn’t believe that enhancing the democratic accountability of public schools is a panacea. But it believes that the U.S., with one of the world’s leading information technology infrastructures, has nevertheless been woefully backward in using that technology to enhance public school democracy.
iSolon.org also believes there is an epidemic of fake democracy in our public schools today (see Deterring Fake Public Participation below for a description of this problem writ large), suggesting that there is an unmet need for more real democracy. Perhaps the skeptics are right that democracy and public schools mix no better than water and oil. If so, the revolution in democratic accountability made possible by new information technologies offers an opportunity to bring that argument out from under a dark rock and see it if it can withstand the light of day.
A selection of J.H. Snider’s writings on education policy since 2000 can be found below.
Snider, J.H., In the Dark About Early School Buses, Education Week, January 4, 2013.
Snider, J.H., School Board Nominating Commission Elects All Who Apply, Severna Park Patch and other Anne Arundel County Patches, June 14, 2012.
Snider, J.H., Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission Wrap-up, Severna Park Patch and other Anne Arundel County Patches, June 9, 2012.
Snider, J.H., Four Candidates, Two Open Anne Arundel County Board of Education Seats, Severna Park Patch and other Anne Arundel County Patches, May 8, 2012.
Snider, J.H., Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission Sets Agenda for Filling Two Vacancies, Severna Park Patch and other Anne Arundel County Patches, February 26, 2012.
Snider, J.H., Making Public Community Media Accessible, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings Institution, July 6, 2011.
Snider, J.H., Anne Arundel School Board Nominating Commission Update for 2011, Severna Park Patch, June 1, 2011. [Although this article is primarily addressed to a specific local community, the open government problems it describes are of broad applicability.]
Snider, J.H., Can we strengthen the parents’ voice in education?, Capital, January 4, 2011.
Snider, J.H., “It’s the Public’s Data: Democratizing School Board Records,” Education Week, June 14, 2010.
Snider, J.H., “Maryland’s Fake Open Government,” Washington Post, April 18, 2010.
Snider, J.H., “Deterring Fake Public Participation,” International Journal of Public Participation, February, 2010.
Snider, J.H., “Democratize School Budget Data,” Education Week, May 20, 2009. Cited in Open School Checkbook Registers, Bluegrass Institute, May 21, 2009, and An Argument for School-Level Budget Transparency, Reason Foundation, August 17, 2009.
Snider, J.H., “Need Teachers? Show them the Money,” Washington Post, February 8, 2009.
Snider, J.H., “America’s Million-Dollar Superintendents,” Education Week, December 13, 2006.
Snider, J.H., “The Superintendent as Scapegoat,” Education Week, January 11, 2006.
Snider, J.H., Should the Public Meeting Enter the Information Age?,” National Civic Review, Fall 2003.
Snider, J.H., “From Public School to Welfare Service,” Washington Post, September 1, 2003.
Snider, J.H., “Independent Board Should Regulate PEG Access,” Capital (Annapolis, MD), July 26, 2003.
Snider, J.H., “Getting Real on Raising Test Scores,” Washington Post, May 24, 2003.
Snider, J.H., “Should School Choice Come Via the Internet?,” Education Week, January 9, 2002.
Snider, J.H., “E-Government vs. E-Democracy,” Government Technology, July 31, 2001.