Kevin Cox Petitions for Elected School Board

Local activist Kevin Cox is starting a petition drive to change switch Charlottesville’s school board from appointed to elected. Cox believes that an elected school board would be more responsive than the elected board. He’s working from now until early August to get 1,800 signatures to create a referendum on the fall ballot. WINA has the story.

10 thoughts on “Kevin Cox Petitions for Elected School Board”

  1. A referendum is dangerous business. It is unclear from the story whether this is merely an “advisory” referendum or whether it would have the effect of law. But in either case a referendum undercuts the principle of representative democracy. Mr. Cox is a useful gadfly to stir things up. But on this one, thoughtful people will not support him.

  2. I’ve served as an elected school board member and have some experience to offer. While there are plenty of good arguments on both sides (more responsive to public vs. politicizes education, for one),I believe that Charlottesville is probably better off with an appointed school board.

    The difficulty is that, whether the board is elected or appointed, their budget is still controlled by the city council. Without any meaningful financial power of their own, the school board is still going to be substantially dependent upon the council for the means to implement their programs.

    If somebody wants to talk about fiscal autonomy for school boards, that’s a whole ‘nother story, but I don’t see that happening.

    Harry Landers

  3. School boards in Virginia are responsible for the school division’s budget so even though they may not have taxing authority they still have a huge impact on taxes. They also create policies and programs that have a big fiscal and social impact on the community.

  4. Sure, they’re responsible for the budget, but if the city council doesn’t want to approve and fund it, they don’t. Right?

    No doubt, they have a big fiscal and social impact on the community, but if they don’t have the ability to fund their programs, I’m not sure that it makes sense to make them directly accountable to the electorate.

  5. Charlottesville schools get plenty of money and they don’t do very good job (unless your in ap, honors, or special ed classes) with what they do get.

    You might want to explore the State Department of Education’s web page.

    In particular the “data and publications” link at the bottom of the page has lots of useful info.

    for test scores:


    Our schools spend the third highest amount in the state per pupil but some of our test scores are lower than other school divisions that spend much less and have just as many or more poor kids.

  6. Amazing! An ADVISORY referendum undercuts the principle of representative democracy! What, the public isn’t even permitted to make suggestions?

    Referenda are REQUIRED in Virginia for certain changes in the law but generally Virginia is not friendly towards referenda. This isn’t California. There won’t be a referendum to freeze property taxes for example.

    The State Legislature changed the law so that localities could adopt an elected school board if they so desired. If the power to change to an elected board was made by the elected body that currently appoints the school board no jurisdiction in the state would have adopted an elected board. The elected officials would never give up the appointment power.

  7. Waldo, any comments?

    Only that I haven’t made up my mind.

    On the one hand, an elected school board would be more responsive than an appointed school board. On the other hand, running a campaign is difficult, expensive, and likely a serious barrier to shy and/or low-income individuals. Though Kevin Cox points out that the election will help prove if somebody has the guts to serve on the board, I disagree: I think that it sets the bar too high. For example, I happen to think that both my father and my girlfriend would be good on the Albemarle School Board. But I’d be shocked if either of them would be willing to try for it. This in no way indicates that they’re not qualified for the position — it just means that they don’t have the over-inflated ego that’s required to campaign. :) Yet without an election-based system, we’re likely doomed to continue to wrestle with the same set of responsibility/accessibility issues that we are now.

    Anyhow, no, I don’t have any thoughts of substance, and certainly no decision. I’ll keep talking to teachers, parents, and school board members and figure something out eventually.

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