Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mayoral Control No Better With Checks and Balances

Even some of the severest critics of Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein - many of them on Leonie Haimson's NYC education news listserve, the epicenter of activist parent and politico resistance to Tweed - have called for a continuation of mayoral control, but with tweaks - like some system of checks and balances.

I was amazed to hear testimony from some of these people that even called for an ''Independent'' Board with a majority appointed by the mayor - HUH? They say that this appointment should be for a specific term of office so the mayor can't remove them - HUH2? Like any mayor would take a chance and appoint anyone who would dare make waves.

Let's not automatically throw away local control without thinking of ways to fix it.

These critics actually make the point that Bloomberg and Klein suffer from some kind of personality defect and another mayor would be much more open to parental involvement. HUH3?

What they've failed to do is point to one place in this nation where such a system has not caused the same kind of conflict as here between parents and teachers. San Diego, St. Louis (under Alvarez and Marsal), Philadelphia (Paul Vallas playing Joel Klein who originally placed Paul Vallas), Washington (Michele Rhee playing Joel Klein), Baltimore (no mayoral control yet but with Andres Alonso playing his former boss Joel Klein), and the granddaddy of them all, Chicago, which for 13 years has had Mayor Daley playing himself and his appointed CEOs, non educator Paul Vallas, followed by Arne Duncan (good at basketball and with a connected mom.)

The problem is mixing education with politics. Turning a system over to a mayor who has his/her career tied to ''results'' - and I use the expression loosely because they use these results in the narrowest way - is the problem, not the solution. They want anyone but educators, who can see through the scams, involved in making decisions. Thus they appoint anyone but an educator - lawyers, business people, military people.

Coming soon to lead a major urban school system: a former president of the United States who proved he is eligible by once running a baseball team - oh, and is married to a former teacher. Hell, if Hillary can claim experience based on her husband in the White House, why not W as an educator?

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