All over America, mayors are looking to get more directly involved in the nitty-gritty of public education in their cities. Over the past several years, mayors in Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Newark, New York and Washington, D.C. have weighed in on the school reform issue. Citizens looking for real change also are relying more on mayors and local legislators to fix our schools. In response thereto, mayoral involvement in public education is a quantum leap different from what it was 10 years ago.
Contentious debate on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has begun and the battle lines are drawn. For the next few months, and maybe years, the debate will rage on testing, sanctions, spending, achievement gaps and how to label failing schools. Meanwhile, the debate on one of the most pressing issues—a rapidly increasing shortage of teachers—remains relatively silent. Even in crisis areas like post-Katrina Louisiana that suffer from crippling teacher shortages, education leaders are slow to fully leverage ways to recruit new teachers.
I think that we have done for a lot for education this last three and a half years. , if it is giving kids more teachers, or expanding our school day, or creating more counselors and so on. But the fact of the matter really is, and we have to realize that—and I think everyone has been writing about that lately—that our education system is dysfunctional. What we are doing with all of those things that we have been doing is great, but it’s really all nibbling away at the edges. It’s not taking the bite out of the big apple, which we ought to.
And I think this is why it was so important that we created this kind of a test, and studies, in the last 18 months. We don’t even know who is in charge of education in this state. We have the legislators that make decisions, we have the State Board of Education that makes decisions, we have the Secretary of Education, we have the School Superintendent, we have the Superintendent of Public Instruction, we have the local leaders, the board leaders, the local superintendents, all of those things. And I think that Superintendent Roy Romer can tell you how difficult it is in order to really get things done in this state.
So it is a dysfunctional system, and it is really no different, I would say, than many other systems in our state are dysfunctional. I think that we have seen, when I took over, if it is infrastructure, which was a big, big issue in California, that we didn’t do any infrastructure for three decades, it was just brushed under, and swept under the rug. If it is, for instance, our health care system that we have, and has