NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Trying To Fix Failed Schools

March 30, 1999

Across the nation, states are taking over school districts from boards which are either unable or unwilling to correct glaring problems. While local control of education has been an American tradition, improved performance has taken precedence.

States which have taken jurisdiction away from some school district administrators include Michigan, California, Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia.

Here are some examples of actions involving large numbers of public schools and students:

  • The Illinois legislature granted control of Chicago's 555 schools, with an enrollment of 413,000 students, to the city's mayor in 1995.
  • The Maryland legislature entered into partnership with Baltimore's mayor in 1997 to run the city's 180 schools, with an enrollment of nearly 110,000 students.
  • In 1995, Ohio shifted control of Cleveland's 131 public schools to the mayor's office, affecting over 74,000 students.
  • Starting in 1989, New Jersey officials began taking over 152 schools in Jersey City, Patterson and Newark, charging school officials with various infractions -- including patronage in hiring and failing to give students a minimum education for decades.

In 1995, Congress created a financial control board for Washington, D.C., which appointed a new superintendent and school board. The nation's capital is widely regarded as having the worst schools in the nation.

Source: Tamara Henry, "School Takeovers: Officials and Activists Collide," USA Today, March 30, 1999.


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