Can Mayors Solve School Problems?

Published May 1, 1999

Granting Mayor Dennis Archer control of Detroit’s failing government schools is unlikely to solve the district’s financial and academic problems, according to two education policy researchers who suggest that school choice is a more promising–as well as popular–reform. Although takeovers are well-intentioned, they will come up short unless legislation also allows for genuine school choice, such as tuition tax credits.

In a recent commentary published by Detroit Free Press and distributed by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Matthew J. Brouillette and Joseph L. Bast point out that the mayoral takeover of the Chicago schools has been only a modest success in terms of student achievement. While test scores for the Chicago schools have improved for the past three years, the increases have been relatively small, leaving overall scores well below where they were six years ago.

As an alternative to a mayoral takeover, Brouillette and Bast note that a recent Detroit Free Press poll showed 77 percent of Detroit parents supported amending the state constitution to allow for tax credits for tuition at private schools. This suggests parents “would rather pick their children’s schools than pick the politicians who run the schools.”

For more information …

The March 1, 1999, Viewpoint commentary by Matthew J. Brouillette and Joseph L. Bast, “Can Mayors Solve School Problems,” is available from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 140 West Main Street, Midland, MI 48640, phone 517/631-0900. The commentary also is available at the group’s Web site,