Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mayor acknowledges a dysfunctional Seattle school district administration.

– Murray is creating a cabinet-level Department of Education and Early Learning to work with “our diverse communities” and Seattle Public Schools to “close our city’s opportunity gap.” It will have the ability to go around the not-very-functional Seattle School Board and widely disliked bureaucracy of the school district.

I didnt vote for the mayor the first time, but I will next time.

Here's some history-

Urban school districts tend to turn to mayoral control after long periods of dysfunction and lagging achievement. School board members have been blamed for protecting parochial interests such as keeping open one member's failing school at the expense of broader interests throughout the district. Suburban districts, often better funded and higher-performing, haven't seen a similar movement away from elected school boards.
But for centuries, school boards have also been viewed as a shield against children losing out to favored political patrons in city hall. The National School Board Association opposes takeovers by mayors who may not have only children's interests at heart. It calls locally elected bodies "the nation's pre-eminent expression of grass-roots democracy."
In 1992, Boston became the first major urban system to institute mayoral control after a period marked by a revolving door for superintendents and poor academic results. Boston then recruited Superintendent Thomas Payzant, who served 11 years until stepping down in 2006 -- a remarkably long tenure for an urban schools chief.
Elizabeth Reilinger, school committee chair throughout Mr. Payzant's time in office, credits mayoral control with providing the stability needed to retain Mr. Payzant, under whom students made impressive gains on national standardized math tests. Ms. Reilinger points out that, in Boston, a nominating committee representing parents, teachers and others offer school committee candidates to the mayor, helping win community support. Boston voters twice approved a measure authorizing mayoral control.
Proponents of mayoral control also point to the Chicago schools, famously called the worst in the nation by former Education Secretary William Bennett in the late 1980s. Mr. Duncan, the U.S. education secretary, ran the Chicago schools, which have been under mayoral control since 1995. Mr. Duncan, tapped by President Obama because of his performance in Chicago, closed troubled schools, instituted performance-based pay for teachers and improved state test scores.
Scores on state standardized tests have also risen in Boston and New York and other systems with mayoral control. But the results are more mixed when examining systems" scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which measures achievement on U.S. standards for math, reading and other subjects. Joseph P. Viteritti, a public policy professor at Hunter College in New York who edited a book studying mayoral control, says, "There's no compelling evidence that mayoral control improves performance. "Still, Mr. Viteritti, a former New York schools official who headed a commission on mayoral control, says the arrangement can spark needed change in a troubled system.
After adopting mayoral control in 1999, Detroit voters rejected it in 2004 amid little classroom progress and plenty of political bickering. Recently, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Mr. Duncan have both urged Detroit's mayor to take charge there. Late last month, Mr. Duncan said the mayor should "be responsible for much, much better student achievement." This week, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. said he is "open to the idea."
In Dallas, Mayor Tom Leppert has recently discussed taking control of the Dallas Independent School District. There would be at least one complicating factor: The school district includes 13 municipalities, most of which do not elect Dallas's mayor, says Jon Dahlander, a schools spokesman.
In Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett has expressed interest in overseeing his city's schools, struggling with declining enrollment and tightening budgets.
"No issue is more important than education," Mr. Barrett says. "Mayors around the country are looking at the schools in their cities and saying, "What can I do to help the situation?' "
Mr. Barrett says mayors are more accountable to citizens than school boards. He points to low voter turnout in local school board elections -- 4.3%in a recent primary, compared with 40% in a mayoral primary election.
But teachers and their unions have been leery of giving up school boards. Terry Falk, a retired teacher and current Milwaukee school-board member, fears an education dictatorship. "The problem with mayoral control, you might have a good mayor at a particular time," he says. "But what about the next mayor and the mayor after that?

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