Click for audio Can Mayors Solve School Problems?

Most parents writing a recipe for a successful school might include in their list of ingredients talented teachers, eager students, and quality teaching materials. Few would consider politicians an essential part of the mix.

That’s why Governor Engler’s proposal to allow mayors of Michigan cities to take over poorly performing school districts is not likely to improve student performance in Detroit or other struggling urban areas.

Let’s look at the Chicago experience. In 1994, Mayor Daley assumed control of all of the city’s public schools. To his credit, the Mayor has contracted out noneducational services, like busing and food, to private vendors, resulting in savings of over $20 million in three years.

But the extra money freed up for core educational programs in Chicago schools has still not translated into higher student test scores, which are lower than they were six years ago.

Meanwhile, 77 percent of Detroit parents support bold reforms such as tuition tax credits, which would help them choose for their children alternatives to the city’s failing public schools.

Michigan education will improve when parents are empowered to select the best schools for their children, not when the state selects which politician runs the schools.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.