Home > Uncategorized > The Governance of a “System of Schools” is Different from the Governance of a “School System”

The Governance of a “System of Schools” is Different from the Governance of a “School System”

June 8, 2018

Yesterday Diane Ravitch featured a lengthy post by parent activist Jane Nylund that brilliantly captured the difference in the governance of a “system of schools” as compared to a “school system”. The post opens with Ms. Ravitch’s description of a “system of schools” and it’s origin:

When Mayor Bloomberg first took control of the New York City public schools and launched his reforms, his Chancellor Joel Klein said that New York needed not “a school system,” but “a system of schools.” Over time, his meaning became clear. He would break up and close scores of existing schools and replace them with brand new schools, including dozens of shiny new charter schools. “A system of schools” is akin to what others call “the portfolio model.” The board chooses winners and losers, like buying and selling stocks for your stock portfolio.

It soon turned out that the “system of schools” was a reformer cliche, like offering choice to “save poor black kids from failing schools.” We now know that most of those poor black kids lost their community school and were sent off to a distant school that was no better than the school that was closed. They were not saved. There seems to be a Reformers’ Hymnal that lists all these cliches (“no child’s future should be determined by his zip code,” etc.). I would love to see that list of favorite phrases to rationalize disruption the public schools and replacing them with privatized charters that come and go like day lilies.

Ms. Ravitch then uses the balance of the post to Ms. Nylund’s analogy comparing the governance of a “system of schools” to the governance of a “system of water” and, in doing so, she illustrates why public education, like public water, must be operated as a so-called government monopoly if it ever hopes to achieve the aspiration of providing quality services for its customers. It is well worth a read!


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