Friday, August 16, 2013

Albany is going to fix urban schools

Posted By on Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 10:13 AM

First it was mayoral control; now we may be looking at Albany control of some urban school districts. The very idea is almost laughable. We’re talking about Albany, New York, frequently described as the most dysfunctional state government in the country.

But New York Education Commissioner John King is pushing for a bill that would allow the Board of Regents to take over school districts with histories of low academic performance or financial problems.

Emily Richmond, a blogger for the National Education Writers Association, makes a couple of interesting observations in a recent article about state takeovers of schools. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is pushing to take over Camden’s school district. And the Jersey City, Paterson, and Newark districts are already under the state’s control. The latter has been under state control since 1995, and it continues to struggle, writes Richmond.

The Jersey districts are predominantly high poverty and high minority districts, which could describe school districts in many urban areas, including Rochester. Advocates for state control use many of the same reasons as advocates for mayoral control: low test scores, low graduation rates, and union resistance to change.

And the problems with state control have a familiar ring, too. It’s a dramatic change that doesn’t produce immediate results, and may not improve student achievement at all. State control often injects political mayhem into districts, particularly when it comes to choosing new leadership.

Out go elected boards and in come appointees, often cronies and loyalists.

Wiping the slate clean and creating an entirely new school system seems to have a little more promise, writes Richmond. That’s what happened in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.

Parents and voters should think about letting legislators give King and the Board of Regents any more power. New York isn’t flourishing with solutions from Albany.

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