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ECS Governance NotesJune - July 2002

Governance Notes Archives


Welcome to ECS Governance Notes, a bimonthly e-mail publication with links to key information on education governance.

A recent survey by the National School Boards Association provides a first-ever comprehensive look into SCHOOL BOARD members and their concerns. In this column, Anne Bryant details the major findings from the survey, which she says can help state elected officials and other policymakers understand who is choosing to run our schools and why they get involved in governing the education of America's children.

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Legislation pending in ILLINOIS, S.B. 1983, frees districts from having to transfer students from low-performing schools to crowded schools and magnet schools or in ways that disrupt court-issued desegregation orders. Both houses of the legislature have passed the bill, which now awaits the governor's signature. The bill was passed in reaction to the federal government's new requirements for districts to provide public school choice for students in low-performing schools.

In mid-June, NEW YORK policymakers enacted S.B. 7456, which significantly changed governance arrangements for the New York City Public Schools. Among other things, the bill gives the mayor the authority to appoint eight of the 13 members of the school board. One of these eight appointments is the schools chancellor, who in turn will appoint each of the superintendents for the 32 community districts in New York City. Also, state policymakers abolished the school boards for the 32 community districts.

Earlier this year, the ARKANSAS board of education voted to intervene in the Altheimer School District and the Elaine School District because low student performance on state tests had not improved in six years. These interventions create partnerships between the state and each district to improve student performance. (See pages 2-4 in the linked document.)

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"A Decade of CHARTER SCHOOLS: From Theory to Practice" reviews the research on charter schools. According to the authors, the research evidence suggests, among other things, that students and parents are satisfied with their charter schools and that charter schools have a greater degree of autonomy than district-run public schools. Definitive answers to questions about charter school innovation, accountability, equity and student achievement remain elusive, however, pending further research.

In several cities over the past 10 years, MAYORS have achieved a greater amount of control over school districts. According to "Mayoral Influence, New Regimes and Public School Governance," governance structure changes that give mayors more control must be understood in the context of each particular city. Still, on the whole, while mayors have been able to help balance the budget, improve buildings and increase school supplies, intervention in the classroom has been more difficult.

According to the National School Board Association's recent survey, "School Boards at the Dawn of the 21st Century: Conditions and Challenges of District Governance," the top concerns of SCHOOL BOARD members are funding, student achievement and special education. While the report concludes that there are prominent differences among rural, suburban and urban school boards, it also emphasizes that board members share common concerns and priorities. No matter what kind of district they serve, today's school board members put a high priority on student achievement.

"What Really Happened? Minnesota's Experience with Statewide Public School Choice Programs" examines what has occurred since 1985 with four statewide public school choice laws in Minnesota -- OPEN ENROLLMENT, POSTSECONDARY ENROLLMENT OPTIONS, SECOND CHANCE OPTIONS (or ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS) and CHARTER SCHOOLS. The number of students taking advantage of these options has increased substantially, to more than 150,000 students in 2001-02. While these laws have produced many benefits for participating students and for the public education system, the study finds, several modifications are necessary, including refining procedures for charter sponsorship and oversight.

According to "Serving Students With Disabilities in CHARTER SCHOOLS: Legal Obligations and Policy Options," although special-education obligations are of great significance to charter schools, authorities addressing the scope of such obligations are very limited. Still, statutory and case law suggest a number of policy options, such as limiting local education agency obligations, sharing responsibilities between charter schools and districts and promoting special-education consortia, which should be considered in seeking more workable connections between special education and charter schools.

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The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools has compiled a wealth of information on VOUCHERS, TAX CREDITS AND TAX DEDUCTIONS, including "Vouchers, Tax Credits and Tax Deductions Policy Brief" and "Vouchers, Tax Credits and Tax Deductions Legislation, 2002." These documents, as well as selected research and readings, are available on the Vouchers Issue Site on the ECS Web site.

On May 23, the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools held the first meeting of its ALL-CHARTER DISTRICT Network. This group of 32 national, state and district leaders from 11 states and the District of Columbia discussed the various ways that all-charter districts are being created across the country, and outlined several challenges involved in creating and supporting successful all-charter districts.

As part of its ALL-CHARTER DISTRICT project, the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools recently completed a Charter Districts Issue Site on the ECS Web site. This site contains "Charter Districts: The State of the Field Policy Brief," "Key Questions for State Leaders in Creating and Supporting All-Charter Districts" and "Key Questions for District Leaders in Creating and Supporting All-Charter Districts," among other documents.

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Look for "What's Hot in SCHOOL GOVERNANCE? Takeovers, Charter Schools and P-16 Systems" in the next month. For each of these issues, this report from the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools highlights state activity in 2001 and early 2002, explores recent research findings and provides key questions for state policymakers to consider.

The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools is developing a state policy framework for LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD and LOCAL SUPERINTENDENT roles and responsibilities. This document will be completed in August 2002.

As part of its ALL-CHARTER DISTRICT project, the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools is creating policy options for state and district leaders who are interested in creating and implementing all-charter districts. These options will be released in August 2002.

The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools will hold the second meeting of its ALL-CHARTER DISTRICT Network on August 23 in Denver.

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To read more about Education Governance, visit the ECS Issue Site on Governance.


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