It’s a bad idea that just won’t go away. Once again, there are some legislators in Nashville who want to return the job of superintendent of schools to the dark ages of education when professionalism and excellence took a back seat to politics and patronage.
State law requires all directors of schools in Tennessee be appointed by local boards of education. The Tennessee School Boards Association says this process has increased the accountability of top school officials, while bettering the overall quality of education and cooperation between educators. Nationally, fewer than 1 percent of the more than 15,000 superintendent of schools in this country are elected.
It would be unwise for Tennessee to dismantle a system that has proved to be successful.
Proponents of electing the superintendent of schools argue it was not right to take that decision away from the voters. Even so, educators and policy makers are convinced appointing school superintendents is a much better process than leaving the selection up to the passion of the voters.
Electing county school superintendents in Tennessee often resulted in muddled school administrative offices headed by school leaders who were more concerned with getting re-elected than doing what was best for the school system. In some counties, the elected school superintendent and school board members clashed over political issues. The failure of superintendents and school board members to work together was often reflected in the poor test scores of local students.
Thankfully, such problems have been erased with the appointment of directors by local school board. Even so, there are misguided lawmakers pushing passage of yet another bill this year allowing county commissioners to return the position to the ballot box. Instead of placing another office on the ballot, we think voters would be better served in paying more attention to the offices already on the ballot.