Menino, Bloomberg ... Bernero?
|By Neal McNamara|
Would the city of Lansing take control of the Lansing School District?
During a post-election victory on-air chat with local radio host Tim Barron last Wednesday, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero took a stab at something that in the past he has backed away from: being open to the idea of bringing the Lansing School District under the control of the city.
Barron had asked Bernero about his “vision” for the school system, and, among other things, Bernero said that he had no real legal authority to change the schools.
“In some cities, the mayor runs the schools,” Bernero told Barron. “We don’t have that. If we did, I’d give it a shot.”
But Randy Hannan, Bernero’s deputy chief of staff, said the mayor definitely is not interested in taking the schools under the city’s wing.
Bernero would “be willing to take on that challenge if it came to pass, but he’s certainly not seeking it,” Hannan said. Hannan said that Bernero has a good relationship with Superintendent T.C. Wallace, and is pleased with the team in place on Kalamazoo Street.
As far as if the “challenge came to pass,” Hannan said that he did not know of a circumstance that the city would have to take over the schools, but it would probably have to be an act of the Legislature.
Across the rest of the country, mayoral control of school systems has been a rising trend. Large cities like Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia all have school departments as opposed to school districts, and the mayor appoints a school board. Similar cities to Lansing — small state capitals — like Jackson, Miss., and Harrisburg, Pa., also have mayorcontrolled schools. Milwaukee may move toward mayoral control soon.
Lansing Schools spokesman Steve Serkaian said that there’s no compelling reason — no widespread dysfunction like in big-city districts — for a city takeover of schools.
“There has to be a demonstrated cause that a city takeover would help address and resolve,” he said. “And in Lansing’s case, there’s really no compelling reason why anyone should contemplate a city takeover. We have a strong and competent board of education that has hired a strong and experienced superintendent who in turn has managed an experienced leadership team that has helped turned around Lansing’s student achievement issues.”
School Board President Hugh Clarke said much the same.
“My question would be, ‘Why?’” Clarke said.
Wong said he did not see much cronyism with mayors appointing friends and contributors to the school board.