When Democratic Interests and the Public Good Clash: State Takeover of Public School Districts

By John Hunt and Sandra Watkins.

Published by The International Journal of Organizational Diversity

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Most public school boards in the United States are elected by the registered voters within the boundaries of their respective districts. In recent years, the Illinois State Board of Education took control of East St. Louis, Illinois District 189 school board. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education did the same with St. Louis public schools and the Riverview Gardens School District. State takeover of these predominately African-American school districts was done with the expressed intent of improving educational outcomes of the students in those school districts. At the same time, the elected school board members of those districts were dismissed by the states of Illinois and Missouri and were replaced by state-appointed oversight panels. This paper examines the disenfranchisement of district voters through the lens of democratic processes and examines the data on student achievement in these districts to determine whether student achievement is improving under the oversight panels. This paper also examines how large the gains must be to justify the disenfranchisement of voters. What message do these takeovers send to the students and residents regarding democracy in education? Finally, what additional damage is inflicted if student achievement does not improve?

Keywords: Disenfranchisement of Community, Democracy in Education, Governance Issues

The International Journal of Organizational Diversity, Volume 14, Issue 1, January 2015, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 139.092KB).

Dr. John Hunt

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, Illinois, USA

Dr. Sandra Watkins

Professor, Department of Educational Leadership, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, USA