Mayor-school board collaboration strengthens school governance

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Collaboration between mayors and school boards—not mayoral takeovers—can lead to better school governance and student achievement, according to a new report by the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“Toward Collaboration, Not A Coup: What the research says about mayoral involvement in urban schools,” explores the intersects between effective school boards and involved mayors. In its review of existing research on mayoral control, the report categorizes the various existing forms of mayoral involvement, examines benefits and challenges for school districts, then argues for effective relationships between school boards and mayors.

Through secondary analysis, CPE found that mayoral takeovers are “a rare, and largely urban phenomenon,” and out of more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., only about 20 have come under formal mayoral control in the last 20 years. Researchers have been unable to determine conclusively whether the mayoral governance model actually improves academics and student achievement.

The report also found that mayors can provide great benefits to public schools in other ways, especially by enabling better integration and coordination of services for children and families.

“What this research suggests is that while the interest of mayors in public schools can bring benefits to public education, a mayoral takeover risks disengaging community interests and disregards the governance responsibility of elected school board leaders,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director.

The report recommends several steps for mayors and school boards to work collaboratively to improve student achievement, including:

  • Formal and informal processes for coordination between the mayor’s office, school boards and superinten­dent;
  • Clearly defined areas of responsibil­ity for the school board, mayor’s office, and other agencies that are involved;
  • Media coverage and community outreach to increase voter participation in school board elections; and
  • Professional development for school boards and other leadership teams.

“Nothing indicates that students would necessarily benefit if public schools were run by mayors,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But takeovers come with a high risk of disenfranchising parents and other community members. A better approach for districts would be the collaborative involvement of mayors, school leaders and the communities they serve.”

Editor’s Note: NSBA and its member state associations repre­sent the interests of all districts and their school boards, whether elected by the public or appointed by mayors.

The Center for Public Education (CPE) is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. CPE provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools. The Center is an initiative of the National School Boards Association. www.centerforpubliceducation.org

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at: www.nsba.org.