Two interesting reports were released Oct 12: one on fairness in school funding and the other on mayoral control of schools. I’ll write about the school funding report later.

But for now, let’s consider mayoral control of schools as a possible way to return to local control. PEF started to have this discussion back when Marty Barnes was Mayor. It was a relatively new idea then.  It was getting lots of attention as political scientists studied education reform. PEF hosted Dr. Clarence Stone, a dean in the field, as he published a book of studies on education reform in several cities, some part of this new study. He suggested that education reforms were turned back because they upset the existing political order.  Schools were the piggy banks for jobs and contracts in these communities.  Sound familiar?

So, posited the political scientists, if the Mayor becomes accountable for the schools, s/he cannot use them to dump political hacks into jobs or give useless contracts.  The Mayor would have to be publicly accountable for the schools and for student progress. Sounds plausible, doesn’t it?

Fast forward 12 years and we now have evidence about how mayoral control works. It shouldn’t surprise you that when there is political consesus-long Mayoral tenure-schools can show growth.  That’s the story in Boston, Chicago and New York.  But then there are the other cities. Detroit even experimented with mayoral takeover and after five years, voters rejected it.

What about Paterson? I wouldn’t have given Marty Barnes control of the schools.  Torres had too much influence given his alliance with Govs. McGreevey and Corzine to the detriment of the schools. And as much as I support Mayor Jones, his hands are much too full to be making education policy.

Our best option is that all the players with influence-Governor, Mayor, Congressman, legislators, union leaders and local board members- work together.  Hands off the piggy bank! Work for ALL the children. That means we must all pay attention and be willing to confront people when they act against the children’s interests.  Are you prepared to take the risk and the challenge?

You can find the report here http://ielp.rutgers.edu/developments/archive/08/2010 and the Star Ledger article here http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/10/newark_mayor_cory_bookers_refo.html.

Happy reading. Irene