The new Boston City Council had hardly gotten down to business for the year when that perennial but wretched idea of returning to an elected School Committee was back on the table — at least theoretically.
“I think our community — the city of Boston deserves a conversation on what the best structure is,” newly seated Councilor Kim Janey said this week. “The reason for an appointed board is to have a direct line to the mayor. We also have to make sure there is accountability to parents and students.”
Allow us to offer a brief history lesson about the good old, bad old days under an elected School Committee. In the ’60s and early ’70s it was largely responsible for the de facto segregation of the school system that ended up in federal court hands for years. Then as recently as the ’80s there were the members so interested in lining their own pockets that they ran afoul of the law. And budgeting? What a bother it was to control spending.
Yes, those were the days when an elected committee was ever so responsible “to the people.”
That all changed in 1992 when an appointed School Committee offered greater diversity and far greater qualifications — as they continue to do today.
Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, Education Committee chair, insisted, “I think we need to have a public dialogue about the future of the School Committee.”
Council members have long been frustrated by their inability to direct school policy. That is, after all, why the School Committee (in its appointed form) exists.
We might suggest to the frustrated councilors that they can always eschew their rather generous council salaries (about $100,00 a year) and vie instead to be appointed to the School Committee — annual stipend, some $7,500. Any bets on how many would make that trade?