Tom Ultican, a teacher of math and physics in Southern California, sat in on two local school board meetings recently. People argued. They disagreed. They berated board members. They made their voices heard. Democracy is inefficient and messy. Sometimes people win even though their ideas seem half-baked.

So-called self-described reformers think that the way to get rid of dissension is to get rid of local school boards. They like mayoral control and state control. They like private management. They don’t like democracy. It is messy.