In a recent blog post, Vice President for Advocacy with the Kansas Association of School Boards, Mark Tallman makes it clear that in his now 30 years as an advocate, what schools have been asked to do has changed.

“We have an economy that demands higher skilled workers, more people graduating, more people going on to post-secondary education,” said Tallman. “We expect schools to handle a lot more challenges. It seems like, whenever there’s an issue that comes up, if we’re worried about student obesity, it’s a school problem. If we’re worried about vaping, the schools need to fix it.”

Tallman’s point is schools will always fall short of what people want them to do, because they are being asked more and more and reading, writing and arithmetic isn’t enough for employers, either.

“It’s not really about students knowing the basics,” said Tallman. “It’s do they have a good work ethic? Can they work together? Can they show up on time? Things that were never seen as the role of schools particularly. They’re very hard to measure and not something you can do on a standardized test, but that’s what we’re being asked to do.”

In spite of that, or maybe because of it, Tallman sees his role in advocating for as much local control of school decision making as possible as vital.

“Of course, school boards and school board members are not infallible,” said Tallman. “They surely bring at least as much knowledge and compassion and sense of what needs to be done as people at the state level or people at the federal level. I think it’s also important to understand that there certainly do need to be state guidelines and standards and accountability, but a lot of the accountability for local school boards is exactly what we went through, the local election.”

Those newly elected members of Kansas school boards will take office in January.