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Monday, August 05, 2002

Strong-Superintendent Government?-I'm going to give only one-barrel to the local establishment today in their efforts to get an appointed county school board superintendent. The NYT-owned Lakeland Ledger's putting in an indirect plug, pointing out the 1992 vote in Osceola County.Polk Country's the largest school district in the country to have an elected school board, according to this Lake Wales News editorial. The editorial, far too smart to be in a local weekly, had this comment
The proper question is not how many large school districts have appointive superintendents; the proper question is whether those districts produce better education. The appointive superintendent would mirror commission-manager city government, in which elected commissioners hire the city manager. The present elected superintendent system is similar to strong mayor government, in which the mayor is the chief executive officer, elected by the people, and shares the power of government with an elective city council. Both systems work well with good people in office; both produce poor government with mediocre people in office.
I wanted to link to this piece a month ago, but they didn't have it posted to their site at the time. Most small towns have a council-manager form, while most big cities have strong-mayor governments. Electing a mayor gives an extra set of checks-and-balances to things. It allows fewer things through. Why is strong mayors the hallmark of a big city while elected superintendents are a small-county thing? In a school district setting, a weak-superintendent system would give more independence (not accountability, as the vote-yes billboards state) for the school board, allowing a majority of the members to push through changes. I'm suspicious of power-grabs, especially in the area of a school district, where a liberal agenda is often shoved down from above from a school board. Having the Polk County Gray Lady back the measure makes me even more suspicious.

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