Mayors Endorse Plan To Improve Schools

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In an effort to encourage city leaders to become more involved in their local schools, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed an "action agenda" that outlines ways to strengthen public education.

The agenda covers seven basic areas: mayoral support, job training, business investment, police, community involvement, academic reforms, and state and federal funding.

"Mayors are uniquely positioned to establish quality public education as the highest priority of a city," argues the report, released at the conference's annual meeting here last month.

"Regardless of the degree of control over schools they exercise, they are in a position to focus city government resources on the improvement of the education system,'' the report continues.

To further this aim, the report urges cities to:

  • Promote private-sector jobs for young people, involve business leaders in formulating school-to-work programs, and use city purchasing power to leverage jobs for youths.

* Encourage businesses to invest in education, give students access to state-of-the art equipment, and help schools improve their management efficiency.

* Tailor police involvement to the security needs of specific schools and foster better relationships between students and local police officers.

* Help create "community schools" that house health clinics, social service agencies, adult-education programs, or police substations.

* Develop programs to train parents and improve school readiness.

* Enforce truancy and curfew laws and steer wayward youths to needed services.

* Insist that schools maintain high academic standards, train teachers to work in culturally diverse settings, and reward success.

* Improve the availability of high-quality, affordable child care and preschool education.

* Work for changes in federal and state funding policies to better reflect urban challenges and oppose efforts to exclude illegal immigrants from public schools.

The document also reports the results of a survey the group conducted of administrators in 124 cities on the relationship of municipalities with their school systems.

Survey Results

Half the city officials surveyed "identified providing support and cooperation--working with the city and the schools on problems or projects, though not necessarily as the leader--as the most important role the mayor can play in improving the public education system in the city."

Other city roles cited included serving as a facilitator between the schools and the city or other parties, providing leadership and crafting special initiatives, advocating for the schools at the state and federal levels, and securing more funds for the schools through taxes or bonds. In 71 percent of the cities surveyed, city officials meet regularly with school officials. In 42 percent, the mayor has designated a staff person to handle education matters, although only in eight cities was that duty a full-time job.

Vol. 15, Issue 40

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