Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mayors and schools

Mayors and schools
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has proposed a drastic take over of the Los Angeles city schools. This effort follows in the wake of similar take overs in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and to a lesser extent Sacramento.
The motivation of these efforts is positive; they want to improve public education in areas that are failing. Clearly the schools are failing for central city and poor kids.
In New York and Chicago, the mayors claim some positive movement toward school improvement.
However, before we go down this path, lets ask the question from the other direction.
If schools are failing, what is the role of Mayors at present?
Without taking over schools, Mayors could do a great deal.
Urban schools would be improved – at times dramatically- if gangs and violence were removed. City administrations could provide police, probation, and youth counselors and gang intervention teams to dramatically reduce crime and violence around the schools.
Urban schools would be improved by providing decent buildings, grounds, and facilities. Certainly city administrations could provide improved buildings and maintenance and lease these back to the schools.
Jean Anyon has argued persuasively in Radical Possibilities (2005) that urban economic development and good jobs are needed to improve the neighborhoods; along with school reform.,
I welcome other ideas.
You see, the proposal to have Mayors take over schools is based upon a view that the problem of urban schools is a problem within the school walls. The proposal assumes that schools can be radically improved while the surrounding society is divided and impoverished. I know of no evidence to support this view.
I think that we should demand that legislators do their jobs- fund the schools, and that Mayors do their jobs – provide a decent, safe environment, and at the same time demand that teachers improve the schools.
If you know of some instances when politicians improved the schools, please let me know. I do know that it was a marginal fix here in Sacramento.
Duane Campbell

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