Duncan supports mayoral control of schools... in Baltimore?
At the Mayors' National Forum on Education in Washington this week, Arne Duncan made the case that all urban school districts should be under mayoral control -- and said he would get involved in advocacy at the local level to see to governance changes. As described in this AP account of Duncan's talk, he singled out Dr. Alonso in the audience and asked how many superintendents Baltimore had over the course of a decade. Seven, Alonso answered. "And you wonder why school systems are struggling,'' Duncan said, according to the article. "What business would run that way?"
He said the tenure of urban superintendents is usually very short because of a lack of leadership at the top. Mayoral control provides stability, he contends.
Assuming the mayor is a strong leader willing to back the superintendent with politically unpopular decisions.
Around the country, the AP says, a few dozen mayors have some control of urban districts, but only seven run management and operations. Among the seven cities with full mayoral control are NYC, where Alonso was deputy chancellor before coming to Baltimore; Washington, where Michelle Rhee is getting a lot of attention for her efforts to rid classrooms of ineffective teachers; and Chicago, where Duncan was superintendent before becoming President Obama's education secretary.
I'm sure most of you know already, but as a refresher: In Baltimore, the school board is appointed jointly by the mayor and the governor, and the board appoints the CEO. It wouldn't be too much of a change if Sheila Dixon were given sole board appointment power, like the mayor of Chicago. Last year, at least, Gov. O'Malley deferred to Dixon anyway to select a new member. The other option would be to abolish the school board and have the superintendent report directly to the mayor, as in New York and D.C. Baltimore's mayor did have full control of the school board until 1997, when partial control was ceded to the state in exchange for additional state funding.