Policy Documents

More than the Mantra of 'Mayoral Control': Rethinking District Governance for the 21st Century

Frederick M. Hess, Olivia Meeks –
December 1, 2011

Mayoral control and other popular remedies mistakenly focus on the faltering performance of school boards themselves and thereby fail to address the underlying dysfunction of an outdated Progressive approach to schooling, write Frederick Hess and Olivia Meeks in a paper for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. This approach reflects a focus on the symptoms rather than causes of the problem, and undermines efforts to overhaul the traditional, geographically configured governance design. Transformative improvement must instead begin by rethinking the district monopoly and reconfigure such systems around function, not geography. School districts could be better “unbundled” so that they are not required to serve as a one-stop-shop and schools can get their various needs from myriad, more specialized and nimble providers.