Do Mayoral Takeovers Work?
By Patte Barth
Shortly after taking charge of the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters, “At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control [of public schools], I think I will have failed.”
It’s no surprise that Duncan would view the mayor’s office as an appropriate place for school leadership. Before becoming secretary, Duncan served as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, having been named to the position by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Duncan and other advocates for mayor-controlled schools often cite the perceived success of mayors’ leadership in Chicago, as well as in New York City and Boston, to argue for a transfer of power from school boards to the city’s top office as a way to raise the performance of struggling urban districts. Their not-so-thinly-veiled implication is that elected school boards stand between a lackluster status quo and meaningful educational change.
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