Earlier this week Gov. Jim Doyle reiterated his support for a mayoral takeover of the Milwaukee public schools.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which continues to blur the line between reporting and editorializing began its initial coverage: “Jim Doyle said Monday the state must give control of Milwaukee schools to the mayor to put in a 'good faith' application for federal economic stimulus funds.”
Wispolitics was more measured when it wrote: “Doyle hedged on whether mayoral control of the MPS will be part of the application, though he continued to voice support from the governance change.”
Doyle's position contradicts that of the Obama administration.
In a letter to Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan acknowledged that dismantling elected school boards was not a Race to the Top requirement. He wrote: Although we have not yet released the final priorities and criteria for Race to the Top, mayoral control was not a criteria included in the proposed priorities...."
According to the Journal Sentinel: “Doyle said the education reforms he and Evers are advocating would require the steady push only a mayor can provide. Otherwise, school policy could "vacillate from year to year" with changes on the School Board…”
That’s a particularly interesting observation since Mayor Barrett is actively considering a run for Governor, hardly a recipe for continuity.
It also contradicts the argument that mayoral run school districts are more accountable to the public than elected school boards because of higher voter turn-out. By acknowledging that the mayor of Milwaukee is as close to a life-time position (continuity is assured) as one can find, Doyle undermines the electoral accountability argument.
Today in a letter to the editor Congresswoman Gwen Moore challenged the Governor’s position. She wrote:
“… Doyle's contention that mayoral control of the Milwaukee schools is critical to receiving these Recovery Act funds is inconsistent with multiple assurances I have received from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that mayoral control of MPS is not a prerequisite to Wisconsin receiving Race to the Top funds (Page 1A, Oct. 20).
In a letter dated Oct. 7, Secretary Duncan wrote, 'Mayoral control of the public schools was not a criterion included in the proposed priorities (for Race to the Top funding) that were released for public comment in July.'
I agree that the Milwaukee schools face serious challenges - the achievement gap and 69% graduation rate among them. But I have yet to see evidence that placing the School Board under any mayor's control will magically erase the problems that have long plagued our public schools.
To wrongly suggest that the badly needed Race to the Top funds will not be awarded to Wisconsin unless Milwaukee wrests control away from a democratically elected School Board and hands it over to the mayor is unfair. And wrong on the facts.
To advocate for mayoral control of the Milwaukee schools is one thing; to suggest that not making the switch will restrict Wisconsin's access to a pot of money is simply untrue."