Date: May 21, 2004
Subject: Taking the "public" out of "public education"

J. E. Stone, Ed. D.
Education Consumers ClearingHouse & Consultants Network

If anyone wonders why regulation of the public schools by state education agencies has done so little to promote the kind of changes wanted by the public, they should consider what happened to Minnesota's Cheri Pierson Yecke.

She was well qualified and experienced, and she was trashed—primarily by educators—for siding with the parent and taxpayer critics of the public school curriculum.

"[Senator Steve] Kelley whose Education Committee recommended Yecke's firing last month, argued that the commissioner had split the state's education community of parents and educators into two warring camps." (Star Tribune, "Senate fires Yecke," May 17, 2004.)

Yes, but wasn't it the job of Yecke's agency to set directions for the schools and to hold them accountable to the public—and not vice versa?

It can be argued that her curricular views were biased, but bias is a relative matter. As all post-modernists know, the question is, "whose bias?"

The real issue in her downfall was that she shared the biases of parents and the lay public, and she opposed the biases favored by educators.

Had she gone along with the curricular preferences of Minnesota's education establishment, she would have been welcomed and affirmed.

So if the education establishment is able to exercise that much control over the choice of a state education agency's leadership, is it realistic to expect that that agency will be able to lead education in the direction wanted by the public?

The object lesson is clear. Congress, governors, legislators, and school board members are free to enact all of the reform policies they would like so long as implementation and enforcement remain in the hands of a captive agency.