Conference logo featuring title Should School Boards Run Our Schools

Should School Boards Run Schools?
A virtual conference series on school governance

May 4 — June 15, 2023

Thursdays at 12 p.m. ET

Governing schools has become far more difficult since the pandemic. Many school boards have, for example, become mired in partisan political controversies that have little to do with their core function: educating students. Several features of this polarized era stand out: cultural fights about sex and gender, disagreement about how schools should teach about race and racism, and the extent to which parents or education professionals should drive decision-making.

The Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government hosted seven one-hour virtual sessions with the nation’s leading policymakers, scholars, and experts on school boards and K–12 governance. The purpose of this virtual series is to examine current challenges facing school boards and to weigh the merits of alternative approaches to governing schools.

Agenda and Video

May 4

Keynote address

James Peyser, former secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Michael Hartney, Fellow, Hoover Institution
Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University


MAY 11

Do school boards represent parents’ interests?

Michael Hartney, Fellow, Hoover Institution

Craig DiSesa, Executive Director, The Middle Resolution
Beth Ann Rosica, Former Executive Director, Back to School PA

Download the slides from Michael Hartney's presentation


MAY 18

Do unions have too much power over school boards?

John Singleton, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Rochester

Bradley Marianno, Associate Professor, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Nick Melvoin, Board Member, Los Angeles Unified School District

Download the slides from John Singleton's presentation


MAY 25

Are school boards democratic?

Vladimir Kogan, Professor, Ohio State University

Jonathan Collins, Assistant Professor of Education, Brown University
Sarah Reckhow, Associate Professor, Michigan State University

Download the slides from Vladimir Kogan's presentation



Do school boards govern, or are they rubber stamps?

Robin Lake, Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education

A.J. Crabill, Leader, Council of Great City Schools
Mike Ford, Associate Professor of Public Administration, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Download the slides from Robin Lake's presentation



How can school boards navigate the culture wars?

Andy Rotherham, Co-founder, Bellwether Education Partners

Max Eden, Research Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
Scott Levy, Visiting Fellow, Harvard Center for Education Policy Research



If not boards, who? The case for alternatives in school governance

Beth Schueler, Assistant Professor of Education and Policy, University of Virginia

Terry Grier, Former Superintendent, Houston Independent School District
Domingo Morel, Associate Professor of Political Science, New York University


Participant directory