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Arne and Co. Tackle Mayoral Control

By Michele McNeil — July 06, 2009 1 min read
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From guest blogger Dakarai I. Aarons:

The National Journal has rounded up a veritable who’s who among education policymakers to talk about the pros and cons of mayoral control of schools on its new education blog today, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who famously said he will have “failed as secretary” if more big cities don’t have mayoral control by the end of his tenure.

Duncan kicks off the discussion, saying: “Mayoral control also clearly defines accountability. One person is in charge. ... For cities that need to take bold action to improve their schools, creating a clear line of accountability to one person is an important step in turning around the schools.”

But he also says mayoral control may not be right everywhere, but an important tool to consider.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says mayoral control can and does work, but her seven years of experience with it in New York City (where the law expired last week because of inaction by the New York Senate) shows that transparency and accountability are key, including independent reviews of financial decisions and a formal place for parents to be heard.

Rep. John Kline, the newly-minted ranking Republican on the House committee that oversees education, also favors a measured approach:

“Mayoral control has certainly worked well in some large cities, and I applaud it. But in other areas, engaged school boards have been able to implement the right kinds of reforms to improve student achievement. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to education, whether you’re talking about governance or curriculum.”

Check out more responses here from other top thinkers, including former NYC schools chancellor Harold Levy, AEI’s Rick Hess, Fordham’s Checker Finn and NSBA’s Anne Bryant. The school boards group delivered a stern smackdown to the secretary after he promoted the virtues of mayoral control at their April conference.

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