It’s no surprise that Michelle Rhee has stepped down as Chancellor of
the District of Columbia Public Schools. Advocates of “mayoral control”
in education have always argued that such a governance arrangement
provides a clear line of accountability, straight through the mayor's
office. Upshot: Adrian Fenty loses; his schools chief is out. Simple as
that. But that doesn't make the outcome any less unsettling for D.C.,
and especially for its most vulnerable children. As the Washington City Paper editorialized
before the election, “When it comes to reforming a failed school
system, you either go monomaniacal or go home. It’s naïve to think that
you can do it while simultaneously making nice with the old guard.”
Vincent Gray, Washington’s next mayor, will test this argument with his
promise to push reform but also seek greater buy-in
from stakeholders. There’s little reason to be optimistic about this
approach—can anyone name a single city where “reform with a smile” has
turned around a failing school system?—but here’s hoping for the best.
And, if you’re really committed to looking for a silver lining, it’s
this: Michelle is gone, but D.C.’s charter schools remain, and within a few years they will serve a majority of the city’s children.
“Michelle Rhee resigns; Gray huddles with her successor,” by Tim Craig and Bill Turque, Washington Post, October 13, 2010.
“Michelle Rhee will leave plenty of unfinished business in D.C.,” by Bill Turque, Washington Post, October 12, 2010.
“Goodbye Rhee, hello brave new chancellor,” by Jay Matthews, Washington Post, October 12, 2010.