Institute on Education Law and Policy To Release Updated Report on Governance in Urban School Districts With Special Emphasis on Mayoral Involvement

Add This

EDITOR’S NOTE: Members of the Media Are Invited To Cover This Important Oct. 12 Program; contact Kandi N. Berryman, 973-353-3883

Summary: A study by the Institute on Education Law and Policy presents research findings and makes recommendations to educational policymakers about governance options for urban school districts, including various forms of mayoral control.  This study should have special significance for New Jersey as the state considers  governance options for Newark, Paterson and Jersey City, school districts that should return to local governance relatively soon after many years of state operation. 

 NEWARK, N.J. September 8, 2010 – The Institute on Education Law and Policy (IELP), based at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Newark, will release an updated study on experimental models of public school governance in nine cities: Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.  A central purpose of IELP’s study is to provide guidance to New Jersey policymakers as they consider options for Newark, Paterson and Jersey City, school districts that should be returning to local governance after almost 15, 19 and 21 years, respectively, of state operation.   

 IELP will host a public seminar on Oct. 12, 2010, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations. The seminar will be held on the Rutgers-Newark campus at the Center for Urban and Public Service, 111 Washington Street, Rm. 203, Newark, NJ 07102. Media representatives are invited to attend, but should register in advance with Kandi Berryman.

According to Professor Paul L. Tractenberg, founder and co-director of IELP: “The nine urban school districts we studied are confronting educational problems similar to those of New Jersey’s hard-pressed urban districts, although in some cases on a different scale.  Still, their experiences with a variety of governance models will provide an important backdrop against which our state’s policymakers can make informed decisions about how to proceed.  We can learn from others’ experiences, whether positive or negative, and not have to reinvent the wheel.”

The study’s findings include how various public education stakeholders– superintendents and other district leaders, teachers and unions, parents and community groups, and the business and philanthropic communities – view the strengths or shortcomings of different governance models. The study also considers the extent to which there is objective evidence linking new governance structures, including mayoral control, with higher student achievement, greater efficiency, and the in-migration of businesses and middle-class families to the cities. 

Among the study’s conclusions about various forms of mayoral control are that they tend to lead to: 

·         an increased public commitment to education; 

·         increased educational funding; 

·         increased stability in terms of school leader tenure and collective bargaining agreements; and

·         a diminished role for parents and the broader community.

 The study found no conclusive evidence that the new governance models led to increased student achievement or a reversal of urban population decline. 

 Based on the study, the report recommended that the menu of governance choices for New Jersey’s urban school districts be expanded beyond the two traditional models of appointed and elected independent school boards to include some that give city leaders a greater stake in public education.  According to Professor Alan R. Sadovnik, co-director of IELP, “Of the nine governance models reviewed, none of them is ideal, but several offer options that are worthy of consideration.  Any model, however, should include guarantees of transparency and accountability, as well as providing parents and community representatives a meaningful role in governance alongside strong city leadership.”

 IELP, established in 2000 by Professor Tractenberg at Rutgers Law School – Newark, has become New Jersey’s premier center for interdisciplinary research and innovative thinking on education law and policy. The Institute’s mission is four-fold: to promote education reform and improvement through research, policy analysis and public discussion; to mobilize lawyers, scholars and education practitioners to address complex and controversial issues in education law and policy in a comprehensive, in-depth manner; to improve public understanding of these issues; and to serve as a center for learning and innovative thinking about legal and public policy issues relating to education.

 Media Contact: Kandi N. Berryman