Turning around bad schools will be harder than turning around Chrysler or GM, writes Checker Finn on National Review.
To be sure, schools are smaller than giant corporations, but they’re at least as burdened by employee contracts, long-term obligations, community roots, political entanglements, all manner of vendors and suppliers, and “shareholders” in the form of children and parents that depend on them. And because they are public agencies rather than private firms, there is nothing quite like “Chapter 11” through which they can be stripped of their debts and obligations, reorganized, and given a fresh start.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has no direct power to close “dropout factories” and other failing schools, Finn points out. That’s up to states and local districts.
. . . our education system has proven as inept at intervening in failed schools as it is skilled at spotting them. Districts responsible under federal law for “reconstituting” them nearly always opt for the least intrusive option — changing the curriculum or perhaps replacing the principal rather than shutting them down and starting afresh.
As CEO of Chicago schools, Duncan was willing to close schools — and he had a lot of failing schools to close.
As Education secretary, Duncan’s levers are billions in federal “stimulus” spending, which can be used “to bribe states and districts to get serious about school reconstitution,” the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which could defund “slacker schools,” but probably wont, plus “sunlight and jawboning, in an effort to persuade state and local officials to take serious action — and embarrass those that falter.”