Should A Mayor Be In Control Of The Schools?

Council Prepares for Vote to Give Fenty Control

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.

  • Ryan

    I wouldn’t be in favor of it. To me, there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator. Look at government as it is now: completely corrupt and too powerful, and that’s when power is stretched over three branches with a legislature of over 500 people. If power can corrupt a government as large and spread out as ours, I cannot imagine a system where one single person could not become corrupt and abuse the system. At least with our system of democracy we have our (supposed) system of checks and balances and the ability to get politicians out of office.

  • TerryP

    Most all monopolies or dictatorships actually help right at the beginning. If they didn’t they would have never came into being in the first place. The problem is given a little time they always end up hurting more than they helped in the beginning. As the saying goes “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.