With more two-way dialogue, school board meetings could draw more diverse audiences, study finds

News from Brown

A study shows that giving the public more opportunities to converse with school board leaders could increase civic engagement and lead to more public trust in officials — especially among low-income groups and people of color.

Schools in the U.S. are set to receive $123 billion in federal pandemic relief funding. Across the country, parents and school administrators are engaging in spirited debates about whether to teach critical race theory. And Americans are bitterly divided in their opinions about how and when to resume in-person instruction following rising rates of vaccination against COVID-19.

One might expect that given all that’s at stake, school board meetings across the U.S. would be hotbeds of discussion. But in many cases, they’re the same staid, sparsely attended affairs that they can often be.

“We have more than 13,000 school boards in the U.S., and each one of them meets monthly,” said Jonathan Collins, an assistant professor of education at Brown University. “Everyone hates these things. People have told me they think going to school board meetings is like watching paint dry, like listening to nails on a chalkboard.”


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