Tuesday, December 7, 2010

School districts face a multitude of problems

My colleagues and I mostly interact with municipal school districts regarding questions of school choice. But of course school boards and districts have to deal with a whole multitude of problems, some of which sometimes impact their school choice decisions (either directly, or just because some problems are even more pressing).

In NY, Class Sizes Grew in City Despite ’07 Deal to Cut Them.
And here's a story, that in discussing opposition to Mayor Bloomberg's newly nominated schools Chancellor, also provides a good summary of the size of the changes he and Chancellor Joel Klein tackled: Frustrations With Mayor Are Backdrop to Nominee Uproar
     "Mr. Klein took office soon after the State Legislature handed the mayor control of the school system — no one yet knew how it would play out, and few would have imagined the scope of the overhaul that the mayor has since engineered. Mr. Bloomberg had yet to dissolve the 32 school districts that were a bedrock of the system and that, while chronically corrupt in some places, were also a crucial lifeline for parents with questions and concerns.
     "Sure, people who follow such things knew that the Board of Education, once a hotbed of political squabbling, would be replaced by a panel whose majority would be appointed by the mayor. But no one foresaw that if the mayor’s appointees disagreed with his policies they would be fired, as two were on the eve of a controversial panel vote in 2004, rendering the panel toothless. Now that it is clear that mayoral control really means mayoral control, the question of who would execute the mayor’s wishes has taken on more importance. "

Boston also has serious budget problems, which directly affect school choice: School officials in Hub urge closings
"The scenarios following Superintendent Carol R. Johnson’s recommendations last month to close several schools represent the stark realities confronting the school system as it prepares for its fourth consecutive year of budget cutting. The district is projecting a $63 million shortfall for the school year beginning September 2011. Last night, officials said the 2012-13 school year could be even worse, with an anticipated $91 million shortfall...
"The 40-minute financial presentation last night did little to quell the protests from the schools recommended for closure: the East Zone Learning Center, Emerson Elementary, Clap Elementary, Social Justice Academy, and the Engineering School in Hyde Park....
"In January, the school district is expected to raise once again the divisive issue of changing the way the district assigns students to schools after a similar attempt failed two years ago amid public uproar. The effort is intended to reduce busing costs by shrinking the geographic regions from which families can choose schools. If the district comes up with a palatable plan, any savings are not expected to be realized for at least two years."

More schools targeted to close in Hub
"The School Committee is slated to vote Dec. 15 on Johnson’s proposal. The committee needs to act quickly because next month parents start submitting their choices of where they want to send their children to school next fall.
"But some of those buildings might not sit empty for long. In a separate announcement late yesterday afternoon, Johnson and Mayor Thomas M. Menino said some buildings may be leased to charter schools, which are planning an aggressive expansion in the city."

In San Francisco, there are problems on the school district staff: San Francisco School Administrators Schemed to Take Money, Documents Say
"A group of San Francisco Unified School District administrators, including an associate superintendent, engaged in a long-running scheme to funnel district money into their personal bank accounts via nonprofit community organizations, according to internal documents. "
In short, market design takes place, when it does, amidst a noisy, difficult background, particularly in tough financial times.

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