"Mayoral control" has been hailed as a model of accountability for turning around failing urban school systems since Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gained control over his city's troubled schools in the early 1990s. Cities with some form of mayoral control include Chicago (where Education Secretary Arne Duncan was schools CEO for Mayor Richard M. Daley), Cleveland and Washington, D.C. New York City was the leading example until last Wednesday, when the law giving Mayor Michael Bloomberg control of the city's schools expired and a bill to renew it fell victim to a political stalemate in the legislature (the old school board met the following day, reappointed Schools Chancellor Joel Klein with full decision-making authority and called on the legislature to renew mayoral control).
While test scores in some cities have risen under mayoral control, it isn't clear-cut that the governance structure has been the reason. And mayoral control takes many different forms in the cities. What kinds of restrictions or oversight should accompany mayoral control, if any? What is the appropriate mix of authority and accountability that allows for bold leadership from the mayor while preserving the legitimate right of parents, teachers, school administrators and citizens to have a say in the education of the city's children? Are there other, better models for providing direction to troubled urban school systems?