school board elections were partisan and held on the Tuesday after the
first Monday in November.
The finance issue lies somewhere between a reversible problem and an
irreversible problem for school board governance. As long as school
boards raise funds from their own citizens, each will be relatively autonomous, but they will collectively violate society's basic notions of equity. If they are funded by grants from the states, they can be more equitable, but they come much closer to being administrative agencies rather
than autonomous governments.
Recognition of the political weakness of school boards has led to a wide
variety of proposals, from Chester Finn's call for their abolition ( 1992) to Jacqueline Danzberger's proposals for strengthening boards' policymaking capacity ( 1992). Calls for school choice are essentially strategies for replacing the republican governance that school boards promise with another means of protecting parental rights. School-based management
implies that the school rather than the district is the appropriate unit of
governance. The states are already well into the process of overseeing a
variety of new ways to protect parental rights while pursuing public purposes. None of those endeavors reserve a prominent role for school
boards as we know them.
"Academic bankruptcy" is a term used to describe school districts that, according to the state, fail to provide students with an adequate education. After declaring a school district to be academically bankrupt, the state assumes direct control of the day-to-day administration of the district.
As a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Rodriguez, it has been impossible to launch court challenges to the sizable inequalities in funding across
states, nor have these differences made much of an impact on the agendas of the
federal government's political branches.
An exception is Wisconsin, which has no such body.
This trend seems to have reversed in the early 1990s, which has seen a slight
uptick in the local share and a slight decline in the state share (Office of
Educational Research and Improvement 1994: 94-115).
Existing school finance systems do not fit neatly into any of the four categories described above. This is because the adoption of a new system is generally
accompanied by "hold harmless" provisions to ensure that no school district will
actually lose state funding when the state adopts the new system ( Rosmiller 1992: 516). As a result, school finance reform tends to mean a ratcheting up of the state
share of school spending and a complex system that contains features of more
than one finance mechanism.