Mayoral Control Means Local Control
My latest article points out that mayoral control of the Saint Louis school districts could be a good way to put control over our schools back in the hands of an official who is directly elected by Saint Louis voters, while still giving the district the stable, coherent leadership it so desperately needs. However, I also emphasize that mayoral control will only work if the mayor and other civic leaders are committed to making it work:
Critics point out that Sullivan is not a city resident, and that the new governance arrangement will provide parents with little influence over the direction of the district. Moreover, there is no guarantee that this three-person governance panel will show more leadership coherence than the school board it replaces. In 2000, the Washington, DC, school board was re-shuffled to include four members appointed by the mayor and five members directly elected by voters. This fractured leadership structure has not worked very well. DC Mayor Anthony Williams described it as “trying to drive a car with one pedal.” Similarly, under the state take-over plan now under way, control over the district will be fractured among the governor, the mayor, and the president of the board of aldermen?three politicians who may have divergent views on how the district should be governed. Mayoral control could address both of those concerns, giving the district unified, coherent, and stable leadership under an elected official chosen by Saint Louis voters.
However, mayoral control will only make sense if Mayor Slay is willing to step up to the plate and make education reform a focus of his administration. And given the structural limitations on the power of the mayor in Saint Louis, the business community and other civic leaders must be willing to provide strong backing for the mayor’s reform efforts as well.
Here is the PDF of our recent study on mayoral control by Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute.