Mayors and CEOs (Chief Educational Officers), Oh My (Oh No)

From the American School Board Journal, circa 1900.

From the American School Board Journal, circa 1900.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced a new crusade to bring mayoral politics to all big city school districts.

His reasons are spelled out in this NY Post article:

He said mayoral control provides more accountability, stability and flexibility to implement reform.

Duncan — citing improved test scores and graduation rates, more school choice and curbing social promotion.

Currently only seven of the largest districts are under some form of mayoral control.  Not a very big sample size.  Mayoral was tried and abandoned in Detroit and Washington in the recent past and in the distant past it was common.

Never play poker with anyone who lived or worked in Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Chicago — as Duncan did — and can keep a straight face while discussing “mayoral accountability.”  The “Mayor for Life” is accountable to no one.

Yes,  that gives him more stability and flexibility.  The appeals to accountability and stability are contradictory.

In other cities, the mayor may not enjoy Richie Daley’s infinite tenure.  In those places, educational accountability may function but stability goes out the window.  Educational accountability is also present in Board of Education elections and Superintendent contracts and in these cases it is the sole issue; with mayors people vote based on everything from patronage jobs to garbage pick-up.

The record on test-scores and graduation rates is limited and mixed.  Social promotion, I have no idea.

That leaves “school choice.”  Yes, the mayoral educational Czars have liked their charter schools, as does our misguided President and his Secretary Duncan.  I have trouble believing that the core of this is about charter schools, but I may be wrong.

What is clear is that Duncan enjoyed his barely fettered reign in Chicago and doesn’t think any meddling Board members should interfere with the plans of his fellow CEO “reformers.”

That’s one  reason to favor keeping elected Boards in charge.  Inefficiency is part of democracy.

For more see:

Anne L. Bryant, “School board relations: collaboration instead of mayoral takeover is best for urban school districts.”

Harvard Educational Review, Summer 2006, Special Issue on Mayoral Leadership in Education.

Kenneth K. Wong, Francis X. Shen, Dorothea Anagnostopoulos, Stacey Rutledge, The Education Mayor: Improving America’s Schools.

[I’d like to do more with this, but my Internet connection has been in and out, so I’m going to post as is, while it is working.]

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under Accountability, Arne Duncan, Best Practices, education, National News

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