To MANY THOUGHTFUL OBSERVERS of school politics, governance change has been a routine and repeated method of reforming urban public education. Alternating initiatives and eras have sought to increase the efficiency of public schools, and/or to increase their public accountability, often with the goal of improved equity, by either decentralizing or re-centralizing school system governance structures (Tyack 1993).
Leaders come and go, laws are passed and new contracts are bargained, but rarely has there been a new regime—a fundamental change in the institutions and individuals that formulate and execute education policy. Regime change involves not only a change in leadership, but also a change in the institutions and the “informal arrangements that surround and complement the formal workings of government authority.” Clarence Stone analyzes such fundamental political change as requiring an examination of “who makes up the governing coalition…how [their] coming together is accomplished…and with what consequences” (Stone 1989, 3-6), because “those who would…alter current policy can do so only by making use of or generating an appropriate body of nongovernmental resources” (Stone 1993, 18).
Chicago's recent history of school reform is one case of contemporary regime change in urban school governance, and a much-touted model for the rest of the nation (Beinart 1997; Office of the Press Secretary 1998). In 1995 Mayor Richard M. Daley took over the leadership of the city's schools and now directs a hierarchy of city bureaucrats with the help of civic elites. Key decision-makers are no longer educators, and the Chicago