Governance Of Education Is Shattered Between k12 And Postsecondary Education

The last several blogs have examined the disjuncture between k12 and broad access postsecondary education for teacher education, curriculum, and community colleges. This one focuses on goverance, but all four together make a compelling case. Students are caught between the misalignment of the two systems, and often cannot succeed becuse the two systems cannot work together for better college preparation.

Agencies governing high schools and postsecondary institutions have evolved along with the institutions themselves. From 1950 to 1980, higher education grew so dramatically that the need for increased state coordination became a priority. In 1940, the majority of states did not have a higher education governing, coordinating, or planning agency with responsibility for all public higher education. By 1979, all states had such an agency (Richardson et al., 1999). In 1940, 70% of public campuses had their own board, but by 1976, only 30% did. State subsystems developed as branch campuses of major public universities, and as a way to govern former normal schools that had been under state boards of education. But these postsecondary statewide agencies were not linked with K-12 governance or policymaking. New higher education state bureaucracies operated in isolation from their K-12 counterparts as regulations grew from 1960 to 1980 at both levels. Richardson, Bracco, Callan, and Finney (1999) stated that “A 1969 study of 12 large states found little political or budget conflict between K-12 and postsecondary education. The two levels basically ignored each other and proceeded in their separate ways (p.9).

In addition, the structure and organization of state legislative committees responsible for education traditionally reinforce the divide between K-12 and postsecondary education. Georgia and New York have separate K-12 and higher education committees in both houses, while Oregon and Florida have committees that oversee both (in both houses). Florida does have K-20 committees, and it will be important to learn from their work over time. Having separate bodies makes policymaking and appropriating funds across sectors very difficult. Appropriations committees are of crucial importance, and they usually have different subcommittees, making it virtually impossible to change the status quo. Higher education governance structures, in general, can be a major impediment to K-16 reform. The variation in state higher education governance is quite large. Some states, such as California have three tiers, while Georgia has a single Board of Regents governing community colleges through research universities. The ways these bodies interact with each other, and with K-12, depend on the history and culture of each state.

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