Handbook of Schooling in Urban America

By Stanley William Rothstein | Go to book overview

5
Policymakers and Politics in Urban
Education
Frank W. Lutz and Laurence IannacconeThe empirical realities of urban school governance stands in stark contrast to the interests and concerns of the parents and children they serve. This should come as no surprise. American governance systems on the federal, state, and local levels demonstrate a fundamental lack of representation for their poor, undereducated, and minority citizens. Urban schools will not likely improve until this condition is corrected. That will require serious modification of the structure of the governance system presently in place. Such a modification must recognize several factors:
1. The reform movement from ward-based machine politics, over the last sixty to seventy years, removed considerable corruption from the schools but also removed the urban schools from the people they are constituted to serve.
2. In the place of ward-based school boards, reform boards were elected at-large or were appointed from among the socioeconomically privileged elite.
3. Such reform boards installed a civil service system of "professionalism" among both administration and teachers that currently exercises an enormous amount of power and operates as a "professional machine," replacing the old machines with a new one that controls resources and jobs while serving the interests of the professionals rather than those of their clients.
4. Such an organization cannot be counted upon to reform itself or to act as a selfless or disinterested party when confronted with conflicting demands of its own constituency as opposed to those of its clients.
5. The very numbers of pupils/families presumed to be represented by urban school boards, whose values often conflict with their constituents, legislate against effective representation.
6. Finally, as the democratic process has eroded in the governance of urban schools, the public has lost faith in their close-to-home, "grass roots" model--and lost hope in using the democratic process as an effective means to change their circumstances.

-73-

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