It’s August—time to regroup before the school year begins. Yet more than other summers there are many changes to adapt to, with more on the horizon. Decreased funds have resulted in the nationwide elimination of essential programs, as well as personnel layoffs, administrative salary freezes, and higher benefit costs. Governors are being reprimanded as they consider using stimulus monies to plug major budget holes, while at the same time they are trying to find ways to participate in the Race to the Top fund’s $4.35 billion money game. Residents of some affluent California cities have pushed for new taxes to compensate for cuts in state funding. Summer school programs have been scaled back in many districts, leaving only the absolutely essential programs—and likely many students with too much time on their hands.
On the other hand, stimulus money is providing badly needed aid for school districts, and even with the world in turmoil, education has finally become one of the major issues of the day. The time is right to bring a new focus on the need for districts to be run more efficiently, to better match resources with needs, and to more effectively execute on innovative programs and strategies. Forty-six states are working together to develop national standards for education through the Common Core State Standards Initiative, in part an acknowledgment that U.S. students are lagging behind students in many other countries. In addition, charter schools, turnarounds and mayoral control—all wishes of the Obama administration—look like they will move forward.
Arne Duncan told a forum of mayors and superintendents in June that he would have their backs in their fight to win control of their cities’ schools. “I’ll come to your cities,” Duncan said. “I’ll meet with your editorial boards. I’ll talk with your business communities. I will be there.” In our cover story “Tell It to the Mayor,” we focus on mayoral control and the different forms it has taken since it began in Boston in 1992.
A growing number of “recovery high schools” are cropping up across the nation. Our writer tells the story of Grant, who couldn’t decide which he liked better, OxyContin or cocaine, so he took a lot of each. His decisions are clearer now, after having gone into a substance abuse treatment program and then attending Sobriety High School in Minnesota, one of 35 public high schools that provide a safe haven for teenagers to stay clean and regain academic success. Experience has shown that students who have successfully completed treatment programs and return to the schools where they were involved with drugs and/or alcohol almost inevitably relapse. Andrew Finch, co-founder of the Association of Recovery Schools, offers pointers to districts that may be considering creating such a school.
We hope that as you face the nation’s and your state’s wide array of challenges and opportunities this year, you will find DA a helpful companion.
Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor