Alexandria To the Editor:
I believe the legislature took a step in the right direction when it decided to require the state to take over schools which lose their accreditation. Schools don’t lose accreditation overnight, but after a lengthy process and much forewarning, so entrusting local administrations and school boards to fix things is simply not realistic. Running a school system is complex, probably too much so to divert time, funding, and other resources from successful schools to the few failing ones. We ask too much of local officials when we expect them to do so, because we risk those resources will come at the expense of success in other schools. Someone from the outside, with control over additional resources, expertise in addressing failing schools, and singular focus and mandate, might be needed because what works in a school system for successful schools might not work with failing ones.
There is, however, another, more fundamental conflict-of-interest problem: A government entity cannot, in practice, both provide a service and discipline itself over a service it provides. For example, the superintendent and then school board chairperson ardently argued at the State Board of Education against yanking the Jefferson-Houston School’s accreditation. The Jefferson-Houston School is one of only four statewide without accreditation — if its academic performance sunk any lower, instead of constructing a new 3-story building for it, the city would have to construct a 3-story deep hole in the ground. In places with charter schools, regulators are much more likely to shut down a charter school than a traditional public school with identical or even worse student performance. If services such as these cannot be privatized, an independent level or branch of government, such as the state or judiciary, has to step in and take over.