It is hard to miss headlines documenting enormously powerful mayoral offices “iron-fisting” the public education system in our nation’s largest cities. Bloomberg in New York, Daley in Chicago, and Villaraigosa in Los Angeles are only a few that immediately come to mind. These men have rewritten city constitutions, previously requiring school board members and city superintendents to run for open election, in order to hand pick the friends and business executives they see most fit for the job to manage public schools (See Ryan’s posts from November illustrating this point in the Cathleen Black case).
However, this trend hardly seems to stop at the doors of city hall. 2010 saw several state capitol CEOs (a.k.a. “democratically” elected governors) advocating for changes to state constitutions that would essentially eliminate the need for public elections of state superintendents. Currently, only 14 states have direct elections for state superintendent positions.
Washington state governor, Christine Gregoire is one such official pushing for the development of a new Department of Education with a secretary she would appoint reporting directly to her. Current State Superintendent Randy Dorn and Gov. Gregoire have been known to disagree on issues of K-12 education when it comes to testing methods, teacher evaluation, and funding, and this change would mean that the previously independent position of state superintendent would fall under the purview of the governor.
The Seattle Times began covering the topic this morning. Below is the excerpt from their website.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is proposing a new state Department of Education that would take over duties handled by the voter-elected state school superintendent and other agencies.
Gregoire announced the plan Wednesday, part of her efforts to streamline government during the economic downturn. The Democratic governor said consolidating Washington’s education efforts — “from preschool to the Ph.D.” — would save time, money, and improve outcomes for students.
“Today in our state, we do not have an education system,” Gregoire said. “We have a collection of agencies that deal with the subject of education.”
Under her plan, a new Department of Education would absorb responsibilities currently held by a wide array of officials, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, who oversees public K-12 education in the state, but has little power beyond the bully pulpit.