Keeping Local Accountability

Centralized control of public education has been blamed for a variety of problems, ranging from one-size-fits-all curriculum to spending on politically correct agendas rather than better teaching.

And the higher on the ladder that centralization goes, the worse. It has been suggested that if the U.S. Department of Education was eliminated, little change in the quality of schools would be noticed.

Local control has its flaws, too, but it has one great strength: It gives local voters leverage because they elect board of eduation members and must approve levies that provide part of the property tax revenue needed to keep schools in operation.

State and federal bureaucrats and some legislators do not like that. They want control over the purse strings.

Ohio General Assembly members are considering changes in how the state handles education, in both public and charter schools.

Some of those new ideas, including more accountability for online charter schools, are good. They ought to be enacted.

But one recommendation,  to eliminate much of the local control of public schools, is awful.

Members of the state House of Representatives Education Committee reportedly are considering a plan for school funding to be handled entirely by the state. Voters in the state’s more than 600 school districts would have no control over property tax rates.

A flat rate on property taxes would be established in Columbus. It would be higher than what some school districts have now, lower than in others.

But that is not the point. It is, instead, that school officials and teachers would be answerable only to Columbus on whether public education dollars are being spent efficiently.

Legislators are pondering a variety of measures that could improve schools in Ohio. Eliminating local accountability is not one of them.