Mayors as School Board Dictators?

Clay at Change.org had an interesting post a few days ago on EdSec Dunc’s support of Mayoral control of school boards.

from Change.org

EdSec Arne Duncan this week came out fighting for mayoral control of large urban school districts, and against local school boards. I’m interested to hear your views on this, pro and con. Me? I see it as opening the door to more school closures without input from – and often against the will of – local school communities; more charters; more non-unionized teachers; and less democratic input into urban education. Maybe some of you can enlighten me about the advantages of mayoral control.

The post spawned some good debate on the issue. Though some were completely against the issue (only one person was completely for complete mayoral control) most were for at least some form of mayoral involvement on the school board.

My thoughts?

I think we spend a lot of time vilifying school boards. They, like unions, can be full of people more interested in ideology and petty politics.

The advantage to having complete mayoral control would be that it would do away with the politics it takes to get something done. Reform can certainly get bogged down in petty bickering between board members with their own agendas.

On the other hand, I am concerned about two things. One, what if the mayor is in a busy city. Is spreading them thinner a good idea, especially when children are involved? Second, I don’t like the idea of the school board being consolidated into one person. Like I said, having one person make decisions speeds up the process, but then you only have one voice.

I like the idea of the mayor having a seat on the school board. That seems to make the most sense to me. I’m not sold on what sort of power they would have. Would they be just another vote, would they still have the ultimate say, with board members advising them, or could it function somewhat like our own legislative system with the mayor serving as “president”?

I’d like to address one comment.

from Change.org

Oy. I really don’t like the idea of the mayor being in control. Like others have said, I’m troubled by the idea of having one person in charge — and not even someone who has an education background, potentially. I like the idea of a representative group of people making decisions for a community. The accountability issue can be addressed in so many other creative, reasonable ways. It sounds like what Kenneth Wong is saying is that he wants the ease of being able to blame one person rather than look at the real causes of problems in a system. [emphasis mine]

On the idea of blaming one person: I think we need to be able to find those teachers who need assistance, get them mentoring or training to improve, and remove those who truly can’t improve or wont or are just bad teachers(I know that’s a relative term to most, but I don’t want to get into that what debate.)

We need to also make sure that we are addressing the causes of the problems in the system in a number of approaches (rather than saying merit pay will fix everything etc) If we aren’t doing both at the same time we will quickly find our reforms amounting to little or no gains.

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4 Responses

  1. The idea of the “buck stops here” in mayoral control of schools is very seductive to the average American. It’s as if parents really have the power to hold the mayor accountable.

    Here in NYC the Mayor and the Chancellor play “good cop, bad cop” games with the public and the teachers’ union as the Mayor deflects criticism of schools unto the Chancellor. Talk about teflonicity! Most of the public anger about schools gets directed at the Chancellor, yet when and if you think about it a little, the Chancellor serves at the will of the Mayor.

    So, the former trust and monopoly busting Chancellor, (you can’t take the spots off a leopard, or something like that) is trying multiple strategy to silence dissenting voices in the public education debate with a not-so-secret nod from the Mayor. The city closes public schools; reorganizes one school and places three mini-schools in the same building; sells minority parents and minority neighborhood activists a bill of goods that “choice” (charter schools)will improve educational outcomes; and, by ignoring the long fought for workers’ rights of teachers, and allowing the likes of Jack Welch (former GE CEO) train principals, the Mayor and Chancellor insidiously erode teacher unionism in the city.

  2. The idea of the “buck stops here” in mayoral control of schools is very seductive to the average American. It’s as if parents really have the power to hold the mayor accountable.

    Here in NYC the Mayor and the Chancellor play “good cop, bad cop” games with the public and the teachers’ union as the Mayor deflects criticism of schools unto the Chancellor. Talk about teflonicity! Most of the public anger about schools gets directed at the Chancellor, yet when and if you think about it a little, the Chancellor serves at the will of the Mayor.

    So, the former trust and monopoly busting Chancellor, (you can’t take the spots off a leopard, or something like that) is trying multiple strategy to silence dissenting voices in the public education debate with a not-so-secret nod from the Mayor. The city closes public schools; reorganizes one school and places three mini-schools in the same building; sells minority parents and minority neighborhood activists a bill of goods that “choice” (charter schools)will improve educational outcomes; and, by ignoring the long fought for workers’ rights of teachers, and allowing the likes of Jack Welch (former GE CEO) train principals, the Mayor and Chancellor insidiously erode teacher unionism in the city.

  3. While I am a believer in school choice, touting charter schools as the savior alone is a false hope. Just having the choice of a charter school isn’t really a choice at all. If you consider the amount of choice someone with money has (private schools, choosing where to live, etc.), then charter schools aren’t a wealth of choice as they are sometimes considered.

    While some unions and union members are part of the problem, to say that even some or most is a dangerous statement. Reformers should be working with unions and teachers, not against them.

    It seems a lot of what Bloomberg and Co. are stabs in the dark. If the Mayor had some sort of plan behind the madness, I mean a real plan not rhetoric, I’d be more inclined to be in his corner. Right now however I’m still skeptical.

  4. While I am a believer in school choice, touting charter schools as the savior alone is a false hope. Just having the choice of a charter school isn’t really a choice at all. If you consider the amount of choice someone with money has (private schools, choosing where to live, etc.), then charter schools aren’t a wealth of choice as they are sometimes considered.

    While some unions and union members are part of the problem, to say that even some or most is a dangerous statement. Reformers should be working with unions and teachers, not against them.

    It seems a lot of what Bloomberg and Co. are stabs in the dark. If the Mayor had some sort of plan behind the madness, I mean a real plan not rhetoric, I’d be more inclined to be in his corner. Right now however I’m still skeptical.

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