When Texas passed a law in 2015 allowing the state to assume control of an entire school district even if only one school was persistently failing, it went one step further than what has occurred elsewhere in the country (“Takeover of Schools Stirs Turmoil in Houston,” The New York Times, Nov. 28). If the experience of other states is any indication, however, little will change.
In 1989, New Jersey became the first state to assume full control of a local district when it seized the schools in Jersey City. It followed up in Paterson and Newark. Taxpayers overall considered the moves to be hostile takeovers. Although scores rose slightly, more than a decade later they are still below the statewide average.
Similar outcomes were seen in New York in 2002 when the state wrested control of the Roosevelt district on Long Island from its dysfunctional local board, and in 1993 when California intervened in Compton after test scores hit rock bottom and the district’s books were about $20 million in the red.
It’s understandable why the tendency is to look to the state for a remedy, but based on the evidence to date, they are no likely to be successful in turning around persistently failing school districts. That’s a hard but necessary lesson to learn.
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