Political scientist argues state takeovers of school districts influenced by racial factors
- Rutgers University political scientist Domingo Morel argues in his new book, "Takeover," that state takeovers of school districts are influenced by racial factors, basing his claims on data gathered from all takeover districts during the past 30 years and case studies from Newark, N.J., and Central Falls, R.I., Chalkbeat reports.
- Takeover districts are most likely to be predominantly black and feature the full removal of a school board, Morel found, and these cities also tend to have more black city council members.
- Chalkbeat notes, however, that claims made regarding the benefits of greater collaboration between schools and communities, as opposed to state takeover, offer greater academic improvement, and that his argument largely focuses on the political outcomes of takeovers rather than academic, with a lack of evidence for why takeovers occur in some districts rather than others.
State takeovers of school districts have been an increasingly contentious topic for years, and a number of states have re-examined the approach due to the mixed results it provides. Some argue that the direct control allows states to play a more hands-on role in the allocation of resources, ensuring accountability for a variety of issues impacting schools, and encouraging improvement via the very threat of a takeover.
But the notion also arguably runs counter to the concept of local control and can overlook the complexities that exist within local communities. Some critics also raise the question of who's profiting financially from these moves, with states tending to hire charter management organizations to run takeover schools.
Ultimately, school failure in many of the communities impacted by takeovers is deeply tied to poverty — and, in urban areas, that disproportionately impacts people of color. There's only so much that a takeover can do on that front if states aren't working to address that larger issue.
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