TUESDAY'S ELECTION brought change to the District's school board--not complete change but enough to break up the configurations that were the foundation of the old board's weak and often outrageous behavior. With the new board members there is the possibility of a solid majority concerned with serious policy initiatives and not distracted by personal feuds and attempts to interfere with the work of the superintendent and principals. Two years ago, four new members were elected, but the bad atmosphere left over from the previous board, and charges that the new members were operatives of the mayor, apparently overwhelmed the newcomers. They have yet to make their mark in improving the quality of the schools.
The newcomers need to coalesce in support of Superintendent Floretta McKenzie, to help strengthen the Competency Based Curriculum in the schools and to work for a stricter evaluation of teachers. School closings are another tough and important matter for the board to handle. The school system does not have money to maintain and staff half-empty buildings.
As the new board begins its work, it would be terribly wrong to view the District's overwhelming (and welcome) defeat of the education tax credit as a vote of confidence in the public schools. The proposal represented a genuine threat to the well-being of the system, and the vote demonstrates that the people of this city still believe in the idea of publicly supported education available to all children, free of tuition. Still, other "votes" have been coming in for some time now on the quality of public education in the District, and these show that, given the choice, many people do not have enough confidence in the District schools to send their own children to them.
The tax credit initiative did the schools one favor: it brought together the widest coalition of groups ever seen on a local issue here. Unions, politicians, some church groups, the Board of Trade and even private-school headmasters opposed the initiative. In doing so they focused attention on the importance of maintaining support for public schools. Now that the obvious danger is past, that support may well dissolve. It would be great insurance against future attacks on the idea of public education if those who took so large a part in defeating the tax credit now sought ways to help the public schools do more--much more--than merely exist.