While a relative handful in number, the attention given to these districts has caused some to conclude that the nation's 14,350 school boards overall might not be needed or equipped to provide a 21st-century education.
School boards, like an old car past its prime, need attention and that the status quo will not suffice for those who want improved student outcomes.
Teachers, especially in connection with collective bargaining, have assumed many of the prerogatives that school boards once reserved for themselves.
Some commentators have implied that school boards are really not necessary any more.
New governance models threaten to make school boards in some locales obsolete; financial pressures leave school boards less and less leeway in their spending decisions.
In America of the 21st century, many school boards struggle to attract top-flight members who are willing to put up with the grief that comes with the job.
Interest in and support for the public schools have ebbed as the percentage of households using the public schools has declined and the portion of public school students who look different from the people who pay most of the taxes has increased.
The neighborhood school is no longer the focal point of the local community as people are less attracted to what it offers. School boards continue to consume the largest share of local taxes, but they find less support from taxpayers for what they try to do.
School boards oversee too many complex activities; their governance extends to personnel, curriculum, and instruction -- not to mention transportation, food services, and facilities.
Every school board -- whether it governs a district of 1,500, 15,000, or 150,000 students -- is supposed to oversee the same conglomeration of duties.
Furthermore, a great deal of the work of school boards is little more than window dressing, taking votes on matters on which the school board has no genuine authority.
During the past 60 years, school boards have experienced increasing incursions on their authority and power.
The very complexity of school systems and challenges to education make it increasingly difficult for school boards to master their roles.
School board members are no longer a match for the experience and expertise of superintendents, central office bureaucracies, and unions.
School boards in the United States are frequently passive or reactive.
School boards' lack of initiative in addressing issues of equity and achievement has given rise to myriad state and federal laws and regulations that now constrain local education governance.
By acceding to pressures to favor some constituencies over others, preserve educators' prerogatives, and focus more on operations than education, many school boards are parties to their own impotence.
School boards are being replaced by school-based decision initiatives that provide teachers at the school level direct control of the key variables in the learning environment, including the characteristics of the staff, the use of teacher and student time, classroom management techniques, assignment of students, curriculum and learning materials, as well as the use of equipment and space.
These changes directly and fundamentally affected the roles of central office staff which had been responsible for many of the things that are now being delegated to the local school.
The role of the school principal has also dramatically changed, from that of administrator to that of collaborator and instructional leader.
Attacks on school boards will continue and escalate, thus diminishing what credibility school boards have managed to retain.
There will be sporadic efforts in state legislatures to circumvent and/or diminish the roles and authority of school boards.
Multiple political pressures will result in increasingly dysfunctional school boards.
There is growing controversy and confusion surrounding the role of school boards.
A debate on whether or not the nation's school boards serve a useful purpose continues.
Particularly in rural areas, school boards appear not to have a powerful influence on the academic life of their schools.
School boards and their administrators are at an important crossroads; some suggest that school boards should be dissolved or at least their membership composition radically changed.
School boards have become defenders of the status quo. . .[and].their members display the same rosy-tinted complacency as do the administrators they hire.
The escalating demands for improved student achievement and greater accountability have further reinforced the need to break down "fortress school" mentalities.
New accountability and demographic changes in urban, suburban, and rural communities are compelling closer relationships between school systems and general purpose government.
School boards are relatively weak governing bodies.
School boards are composed of part-time staff members who have other obligations, limited expertise, and little incentive to engage in contentious negotiations.
School boards suffer from real and deep-seated problems.
In troubled districts, there is a strong case to be made for a shift to mayoral control -- if designed coherently, executed with an eye to transparency, and if the mayor is ready to be responsible and accountable for K-12 schooling.
The United States is one of the few remaining industrialized nations that does not have a national curriculum.
Some question the ability and effectiveness of local school boards.
An increasing number of people think a national system could serve the U.S. better, because it would give the process a unified direction and help establish national priorities.
Local school boards encourage social promotions, polarization and economic castigation of lower achieving students.
Success in school determines student's future social and economic success; local school boards are apt to embrace untested theories, thereby traumatizing and confusing teachers and students alike.
Local school boards are obsolete.
Policies regarding shared decision-making at the school level currently vary significantly across the country.
In California, the state board of education policy mandates that training be provided to parents to become more effective participants in the school-based shared decision-making process at each of the state's individual school sites.
The shared decision-making process now includes teachers, administrators, students, and other community members regardless of school size or student population.
The approach being used in California will expand the role of individual schools by providing them with charter-school-like authority and flexibility.
While addressing issues of equity and accountability; the reform initiative will incorporate weighted student funding, an initiative envisioned for years at the state level, by providing more money for low-income and high-needs students.
The current system used in other school districts in California assigns a great deal of accountability to school principals for academic achievement but they do not have corresponding authority over school funding.
Funding for the majority of school districts in California is based on the curricular offerings and educator salaries; however, the process is highly secretive.
By applying a weighted approach to school funding, though, parents, teachers and principals have all experienced increased decision-making authority concerning how these funds are used at the school level.
Likewise, the state of Tennessee has been in the vanguard of those states implementing school-based decision making in its public schools.
In fact, as early as the 1989-1990 school years, school-based decision making was implemented in public schools in the Memphis City School System.
In Kentucky, changes in the responsibilities of local school personnel included the introduction of school-based decision making and school councils.
Although many functions of central office professional staff have been changed in Tennessee, school board members are no longer be involved in personnel decisions beyond hiring a superintendent.
In New York, imprudent delegation of authority to subordinates is especially problematic for school boards, where the average tenure of board members is less than five years.
Global trends in education all indicate that a new skill set will be required in the 21st century.
These trends are being driven by innovations in technology.
National curricula are becoming increasingly commonplace.
The U.S. remains one of the few industrialized nations that does not have a standardized, national curriculum.
The waves of reform that have reshaped the American public school system have introduced new calls for increased accountability and responsiveness to local needs.
In the U.S., school boards are increasingly being viewed as archaic relics of a past age where limited transportation and communications required such localized oversight.
At the state level, a growing number of states are opting for school-based decision making that controls funding and other issues previously overseen by school boards.
School-based decision-making approaches are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to school boards.
School boards are viewed as being out of touch with the needs of students in the 21st century and have failed to consider the needs of all stakeholders.
A growing consensus discerned from recent and current trends suggests that not only will school boards be obsolete in the United States by 2050, in many cases, they already are.
Spring, J. (2001). Globalization and educational rights: An intercivilizational analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, p. 1.