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A Democratic Constitution for Public Education

America’s education system faces a stark dilemma: it needs governmental oversight, rules and regulations, but it also needs to be adaptable enough to address student needs and the many different problems that can arise at any given school—something that large educational bureaucracies are notoriously bad at. Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim offer here a solution that is brilliant for its simplicity and distinctly American sensibility: our public education system needs a constitution. Adapting the tried-and-true framework of our forefathers to the specific governance of education, they show that the answer has been part of our political DNA all along.
Most reformers focus on who should control education, but Hill and Jochim show that who governs is less important than determining what powers they have. They propose a Civic Education Council—a democratic body subject to checks and balances that would define the boundaries of its purview as well as each school’s particular freedoms. They show how such a system would prevent regulations meant to satisfy special interests and shift the focus to the real task at hand: improving school performance. Laying out the implications of such a system for parents, students, teachers, unions, state and federal governments, and courts, they offer a vision of educational governance that stays true to—and draws on the strengths of—one of the greatest democratic tools we have ever created.  


“The two argue persuasively that devolution of power and expanded control of education by principals at their schools would not only establish accountability for results, like those shareholders demand of any corporation, but would also cut out large costs of the bureaucracies that have grown up around local school boards.” 

Wall Street Journal

“A comprehensive and detailed prescription for reform that is politically sophisticated and takes into account the clashing pressures placed on schools by stakeholders: the public education system needs a constitution.  The focus of the book’s proposals is on governance structures that separate responsibilities in ways that discourage serving the needs of adults over children.  According to the authors, a successful governance system would need to be efficient, equitable, transparent, accountable, and democratic.  Each chapter discusses the absence of some number of these five factors in current systems and what modifications would be necessary for school systems to implement these factors, taking into account all the consequences that would come with these changes.”


“For those who think the current education system needs a total reboot, Hill and Jochim have provided a detailed, informed, and politically sophisticated vision for how that might be done. Not everyone agrees that the current system is obsolete, and even those who do may question the specifics of their proposals, but no one who is serious about contemporary school reform can afford to ignore this book.”

Jeffrey R. Henig, Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of The End of Exceptionalism in American Education

“Hill and Jochim offer an engaging, thought-provoking, original, and quite ambitious redesign of K–12 education governance, that is rich in historical grounding and practical detail. It will surely generate a vigorous debate over education’s biggest issues and the problems that beset our current system.”

Julie Marsh, author of Democratic Dilemmas

Table of Contents


1 Why Governance?
2 What Governance Must Accomplish and Avoid
3 Constitutional Governance
4 Checks and Balances: The Roles of Other Entities
5 School Rights and Obligations
6 Reimagining the Central Office
7 Allocation and Control of Public Funds
8 Enacting the System into Law and Managing the Politics of Implementation
9 What Governance Change Can and Cannot Accomplish


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