The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle obtained emails revealing that the New York State Education Department and the New York Board of Regents are considering a plan to oust the elected school board, take over the Rochester public schools, appoint a five-member interim school board, and appoint a temporary school superintendent. 

I wish I knew of an example where a state takeover led to better education for the district. Right now, public school advocates in Ohio are trying to repeal HB 70, which allowed a state takeover of Lorain and Youngstown, Ohio. The Michigan Educational Achievement Authority was a disaster and is now closed. The Michigan emergency manager program has been a bust. The Tennessee Achievement School District is floundering.

Usually state takeover is a step towards handing schools over to privately managed charters.

Thus far, there is no evidence that the state has a secret formula or a cadre of hotshot turnaround specialists.

Last week, when I visited Columbus, Ohio, and had a dialogue with Bill Phillis, the veteran of many school battles, Bill asked why so many “reformers” think that a governance change will create better education.

I concluded that those who want state takeovers are deeply suspicious of elected school boards, and have concluded that the path to better schools is through autocracy.

I hope the Regents will move carefully before suspending and replacing an elected school board. They better have something more promising for Rochester’s students than a fresh set of unelected faces.