Local control: accept it or make a difference


Joyce Rankin
State Board of Education

We talk a lot about local control and we believe that government works best when it’s closer to the people. It sounds good and seems to work well unless you disagree with your local government or school board.

Recently, focus has been on federal government issues, but local government and specifically school board issues have also risen in the eyes of the public. I’ve received calls from constituents that express strong opinions about mask-wearing, vaccinations, critical race theory, sex education, and pandemic-induced trauma, to name a few. These are genuine concerns, especially when constituents feel strongly enough to pick up the telephone or email, hoping that I can help them. Whether I agree with them or not is not the issue. Concerned citizens seek any direction or possible solution. Unfortunately, deferral to “local control” doesn’t always provide a solution to their liking. 

Many parents and taxpayers are beginning to understand precisely what local control in their community is and what they can do to influence change. For example, people are showing up at local school board meetings. It’s happening across the congressional district that I represent and across all of Colorado. School boards are listening to their communities more than ever and it’s not always comfortable. Learning about and understanding the duties and responsibilities of a local board has been enlightening for community members and sometimes provides clarity for those already serving. As long as things are going well, we seldom pay attention. When we disagree and discuss resolutions, change can happen.

I’ve spent five years on the state board and one of the most turbulent eras is currently playing out. During the pandemic, some students were learning online at home. Parents took an interest and became educated about the curriculum, textbooks and what was being taught. Community groups formed, attended local school board meetings and voiced their concerns during public comment. As a result, new candidates have come forward to run for local school board elections. 

I’ve been traveling around the district informing constituents about the “Science of Reading.” 

Reading proficiency in the early elementary grades needs to improve. The legislature (Senate Bill 19-199) has provided free teacher training, an evidence-based approved curriculum and a timeline for both to be implemented by the fall of 2022. Some teachers and schools have embraced the Science of Reading and students in those classrooms are improving. Have your teachers been trained?

If you’re interested in what is happening in your local school district, get involved, attend school board meetings and talk to your neighbors. 

Joyce Rankin sits on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District. You can reach Joyce at: joycesrankin@gmail.com.