…and Representative Eric Pettigrew is more than happy to help. (More on him later.)



This post is getting re-published due to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (our Wannabe Rahm) making more noise about being in full control of the Seattle Public Schools. Mayoral control has had disastrous effects in Chicago, New Orleans and New York City and I will expound on that in an upcoming post. For now, see what Mayor Murray has done so far to lay the groundwork for his takeover, which is really a corporate takeover, of out schools. This post was originally published in January of 2015.

Bill 1497: Looks like Mayor Murray wants to run the school district now

This should come as no surprise to those who know of Mayor Murray’s past in the State Senate when he sponsored a bill for mayoral control of school boards in our state.

With his push to control the preK initiative and convert the Office for Education into the Department of Education, he has steadily increased his control over issues of education in our city particularly with the use of levy funding for unending assessments (tests) of our neediest as well as funding charter schools.

Now he wants to control the district by appointing school board members to the Seattle school board.

This is called mayoral control or mayoral control lite in this case although it’s not so light. It takes a simple majority for the school board to pass proposals so having two swing votes can control quite a bit in our school district.

I also want to add that’s it’s undemocratic, allows a politician, and therefore their donors, to pull the strings, and has been an abject failure in other cities. See the NPEC review  Claims on Mayoral Governance Don’t Stand Up to Scrutiny

Speaking of abject failures, the Seattle Office of Education came out with their annual report last week to the Levy Oversight Committee that showed the students they are responsible for are not doing as well as students in Seattle Public School programs. (Start on page 22.) There seems to be more concern about the “data” and fancy graphs than actually supporting our children. That’s basically what Levy Committee member Greg Wong said in the meeting. I will have a detailed report on the levy and how funds are being handled  next week.

Getting back to mayoral control of school boards, should the Governor be allowed to select state legislators? Should the mayor also be able to select city council members? If not, then  why is it OK for the mayor to select school board members?

Let’s take a look at House Bill 1497 as sponsored by Eric Pettigrew. There are no additional sponsors at this time.

The critical excerpt:

…any first class school district having within its boundaries a city with a population of four hundred thousand people or more ((which)) shall have a board of directors of seven members, five of whom are elected and two of whom are appointed by the mayor of that city. A vacancy by an appointed member under this subsection shall be appointed by the mayor for the unexpired term.

Seattle is the only city in the state that has a population of 400,000+. Coincidence? I think not. But, for other cities in Washington State who think they’ll get a pass, think again. This law can always be changed to include other population numbers.

Then there is another clause:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 4. A new section is added to chapter 28A.34322RCW to read as follows: (1) As of the effective date of this section, each school district of a first class having within its boundaries a city with a population of four hundred thousand people or more must redraw its boundaries to encompass five districts. Districts must be drawn pursuant to the requirements of chapter 29A.76 RCW. The new districts must be submitted to the county auditor no later than January 15, 2017. Position numbers for the elected positions must correspond to the district numbers.

What this means is the seven districts we have now with an elected board member for each district, will be remapped with only five democratically elected representatives for each district and two who will not represent any particular district and answers only to the mayor.

As School Board Director Sue Peters states:

To begin with, it is an affront to democracy. School board members are the democratically elected representatives of the public in public education. Efforts such as mayoral control or appointments usurp the role and voice of the public. Such mayoral control would also consolidate too much power in the hands of one person — the mayor (who already has enough on his or her plate with the numerous responsibilities associated with running the city). It has been highly controversial and not very successful elsewhere it has been imposed.

The great irony in my view is that it is the state Legislature — not local school boards — that is being held in contempt by the Washington Supreme Court for its failure to meet its paramount duty of fully funding public education (McCleary). That makes Olympia a far more obvious place to focus the change that is needed in order to properly serve the students of Washington’s public schools (which rank near the bottom nationally in per-pupil funding).

Rep. Pettigrew’s bill proposes that 2 out of 7 school board directors no longer be chosen by the voters but appointed by the mayor (in cities with populations of 400,000 or above). That translates to nearly 30 percent of the school board appointed by the mayor

Using this logic, and in light of the state-level failures concerning McCleary, perhaps 30 percent of the state Legislature should be appointed by the governor…!

(For the record, that works out to roughly 44 out of 147 state legislators — or 29 state representatives and 15 senators — that would be appointed by the governor. Food for thought!


Regarding mayoral control, most researchers agree on one negative consequence — when mayors take charge of public schools, the role of parents and the community, especially among minority groups, can be marginalized and can further compromise democratic control of schools (Harvard, 2006; Moscovitch et al., 2010; Hess, 2003, 2011). See: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Policies/Mayoral-involvement-in-urban-schools-At-a-glance#sthash.IYVRT0X3.dpuf

About a year and a half ago, the Center for American Progress did a “study” lauding mayoral control in NYC that was full of false logic and errors. It got blasted in this rebuttal by Jersey Jazzman, Mayoral Control Ain’t Done Squat For NYC and refuted by an NEPC review Claims on Mayoral Governance Don’t Stand Up to Scrutiny.

Diane Ravitch has also written about the flawed narratives supporting mayoral control. One such article is The Myth of Mayoral Control of Schools. Another article is Mayoral control means zero accountability.

Also, Broader, Bolder Approach (EPI) did an analysis of three cities with mayoral control (NYC, Chicago, and DC) and found this method of governance had not produced any progress. The paper is titled Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality.

For additional information and articles, go to Mayoral Control on the left sidebar of this page

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

And why isn’t Pettigrew more concerned about adequate funding of our schools than complaining about them and instead carrying water for the Democrats of Education Reform (DFER) and the League of Education Voters (LEV).

If he really cared about the children he represents, funding education, as directed by the Washington State Supreme Court, would be his main focus.