who should rule the schools

Mayoral control supporter says effects hard to quantify

A vocal supporter of mayoral control says that though he’s an economist, it’s tough for him to base his belief in the school governance structure on numbers.

Marcus Winters, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research who has touted Mayor Bloomberg’s school reforms in newspaper op/eds and academic papers, says mayoral control is the best way to govern schools because it provides more accountability for education reforms — but he can’t prove that using test scores.

“It makes me a little queasy to talk about researching positive effects of mayoral control,” Winters said today in a meeting with reporters about the governance structure. He said it’s “inappropriate” to draw a correlation between student performance and mayoral control because mayoral control is a broad governance structure, not a specific reform. “It’s really difficult to study because there’s a period before mayoral control and a period after, but other things have changed in the world besides mayoral control in that time,” he said.

Because mayors who take control of schools are typically very interested in reforming education, it’s hard to attribute the success of their reforms solely to the structure of mayoral control, Winters said. Once a third or fourth mayor takes the helm of the school system (something that hasn’t yet happened in many of the mayoral control cities), it will be easier for researchers to look at the effects of the system independently from the personalities who govern them, he said.

Many supporters of mayoral control, including Learn NY, the organization lobbying to preserve it, point to gains in test scores since Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein took over as proof the structure is working (though some argue test scores began improving before mayoral control was instituted).

Winters says mayoral control is good governance because under the structure, citizens know exactly who is responsible for decisions about schools. Centralizing such a large budget and system under the mayor also throws a “spotlight” on education, making it a more visible, bigger issue, he argues. (For more on his views on mayoral control, see Winters’ op-ed in the New York Post from October, or an AfterEd TV interview with him.)

“The way I think about mayoral control isn’t ‘Are Bloomberg and Klein good?’ but, what system can we use that’s most likely to develop effective policies?” he said today.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.