Bridgeport will be voting on whether the mayor should control the schools.
Mayoral control is high on the agenda of the privatization movement, because it allows one official to close public schools and hand them over to private corporations without paying attention to public opinion. Often there are hearings, but members of the public are limited to two minutes, and no one listens to them anyway. The mayor’s appointed board does whatever he wants them to do.
It is not as if mayoral control has a great record. Chicago has had mayoral control since 1995, and the district is among the lowest-performing in the nation on NAEP tests. Cleveland has had mayoral control for fifteen years, and its academic record is worse than Chicago’s. Washington, D.C., has had mayoral control since 2007, and it has the biggest achievement gaps in the nation. New York City has had mayoral control since 2002, and aside from doubling the budget and constant turmoil, and hundreds of school closings and openings, it is hard to see the benefit in terms of better education. The highest-performing districts in the nation on NAEP–Austin and Charlotte–do not have mayoral control.
Yesterday, the mayor of Sacramento, California, visited Bridgeport to urge voters to support mayoral control and relinquish their right to elect the Board of Education. This mayor is not just any old mayor. He is Michelle Rhee’s husband, Kevin Johnson.
The question is whether Bridgeport voters want to vote themselves out of the democratic process and allow their mayor to close public schools and privatize them. There seems to be a consensus among the privatizers that urban districts, whose residents are mostly poor and non-white, lack the wisdom to govern themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Rhee are in the forefront of that movement.