Monday, October 16, 2006

Fenty Studies Bloomberg Takeover Plan

The Washington Post writes that Adrian Fenty (D), ostensible governor elect for DC mayor, believes he has a mandate to takeover D.C. Public School. Fenty is quoted as saying "In all eight wards [of his primary campaign], people said, 'Fenty, do something about the schools.'"

Coached by New York City Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein, Fenty is strongly considering plans to size control of the DCPS immediately upon election. Current Mayor, Anthony Williams tried a similar takeover in 2004, but failed. The Post attributed that failure to the loss of democratic parent and community voice in their children's schooling. In New York, part of the takeover philosophy has been about seizing control from disparate and dysfunctional groups.

"Parents know about their kids, but they're not professional educators," Bloomberg said. Of course, by that logic, neither are Bloomberg or Klein. "There is no reason to think they should be designing a school system or running a school system. Do you want parents to make medical decisions? I don't think so." Bloomberg's analogy to the health system is completely flawed. Citizens do make decisions about health care everyday. They make decisions on what doctor to see, or what procedure to have done, or what medicine they can afford. But unlike schools, citizens aren't as overtly barred from being admitted to quality health care as they are when it comes to quality education.

Much of the success Bloomberg and Klein claim from the takeover bid is from small schools--a $100 million, Gates Foundation vehicle that has created some real hope for New York City schools, but has not offered hope to scale. Many kids are turned away from these highly coveted spots in small schools in New York. New York City is not the educational envy Bloomberg might like to project.

For Fenty to imitate the Bloomberg takeover, a lot will have to happen. I think a lot of people will hold their breath on this one. Here's hoping Fenty can make it work better than New York. I for one think he'll have a hard time gaining control of the schools, D.C. school politics being what they are. But stranger things have happened. Look for more to come.


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