The New York City school district, among others, is being considered as a possible governance model for the District. Every indication suggests that the New York schools are doing better than they were before the mayor's intervention. But the steps taken in New York were designed to solve problems the District does not have -- or has in a different way. Adopting New York's governance model would solve the wrong problems, leave current problems unaddressed and create new ones.
The D.C. Public Schools do not have clearly definable regional offices with their own administrative bureaucracies and elected school boards, as New York City had. The District's elementary and high schools already operate under a centralized authority. And the D.C. school system has the ability to define its own programs and services in ways that the previous New York system did not have.
The problems in the District are related more to overreaching and redundant decision-making authority above the school system and to weak capacity for solving the system's own problems. Having D.C. schools under the mayor's control would not solve this redundancy problem, and it would not address other challenges faced by the system. It might continue the debilitating turnover of school superintendents and add to the system's instability.
The biggest challenge to changing the school governance system in the District involves diluting the small semblance of voting rights that residents enjoy: being able to elect most of their school board members. Some cities -- such as Boston and Cleveland -- found after several years that their school systems were better under mayoral control and voted to retain their appointed boards. But other cities -- such as Detroit -- went in the opposite direction. Detroit returned to an elected board after five years with an appointed one, amid considerable community outrage at having its voting rights abolished.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
What works for New York...
... probably won't work for the District. The executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, Michael Casserly, argues that Mayor-elect Fenty's planned takeover of the District's public schools is exactly what is not in the interest of the city's schools and students.