Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has shown again that he ultimately runs the city school system. Through a couple of telephone calls he gave orders about the long-awaited decentralization experiment. Predictably, the school board did exactly what hizzoner wanted: it approved the experiment, set a deadline but sent the actual plan back to the staff for reworking.
This is the outcome we prefer. The alternative would have been passage of a vague and contradictory decentralization plan. Instead of a definitive plan of four permitted decentralization models, the road now seems clear for the selection of 20 schools which can propose whatever type of "school-based management" they want. Presumably, the reworked decentralization plan will be worded broadly enough to allow experimentation with almost anything during the next three years. Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a thousand schools contend!
Will this be good for the city's troubled schools?
It is difficult to see how things could be worse than they are now with the central administration dictating every move the schools take. If the schools selected for decentralization have a genuine understanding of what they want to achieve and if parents, educators and pupils support these goals, rapid strides could be made in improving the quality of education being delivered to kids. However, if the pilot schools are not selected with care, failure will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.