Should A Mayor Be In Control Of The Schools?
In the three months since he proposed a dramatic restructuring of the District’s public school system, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has outmaneuvered the Board of Education, using his political capital to shore up support and turning the contest over his plan into a rout.
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will consider the first step toward transferring direct control of the 55,000-student system to Fenty (D). Although council members will offer amendments, the primary tenets appear set for approval: The mayor will gain authority over the school superintendent, the council will assume line-item control over the budget and the school board will become a mostly advisory panel.
The schools in Washington, DC are woefully inadequate. This is a known problem, and while I’ve got my own skepticism as to whether this Mayor can actually make any improvement. But it brings up an interesting question from a political standpoint:
Should we support policies which take largely take power out of the hands of voters, if those policies will result in better governance?
From a political standpoint, some people place a lot of faith in process, and some people place more faith in results. Would a benevolent dictator at the helm of a minimalist and libertarian government be better than an elected socialist democratic government?
Is it democracy that we want, or is it an ideal government that we seek, and we believe democracy will get us there? Would we be willing to scrap democracy if it lead to better results?
I’ve got my own answer, but I’d love to hear some comments on this before I throw it out there.