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A state takeover followed by state mandates that determine the course of action typically happens when a municipality faces a social or financial crisis. Takeovers may appear as a logical step toward restoring a city’s integrity and self-reliance; however, in recent years, state intervention has raised concerns among local governments (Avrich 20). This research proposal will provide an overview of the state takeovers of Jersey City and Detroit and the rationale behind such decisions. The research question is as follows: “Were the takeovers successful?”
The Case of Detroit
In 2009, the state-appointed Robert Bobb as an emergency manager for Detroit, Michigan due to its crumbling system of education. The crisis faced by Detroit schools was caused by several events dating back to the 1960s. Back in the day, the city was investing in a vast number of schools to meet the demand of the school-aged population. However, between 1966 and 1971, due to the major 1967 riot causing confrontations between black neighborhoods and the police, as many as 16,000 children left the city with their families. Schools were closing at a rapid rate, and because of frustration, anger, and underemployment among teachers, not many of the remaining children were successfully graduating.
Despite promising prospects, state intervention did not benefit Detroit (Gross and Hill 299). Recent statistics have shown that the enrollment was down from 95,000 students a year in 2009 to 47,000 in 2016 (McGuire 10). The state not only proved to be unable to deal with its debt but it also let it increase to $3,5 billion. The share of students proficient in math and reading has also been on the all-time decline (Solomon 67). The primary reason as to why the state seems to have failed Detroit is Bobb’s reliance on a formal quality assessment, and, namely, standardized tests (Morel 108). At the same time, no meaningful changes have been made to neither school curriculums, which have been recognized as outdated nor to learning conditions.
The Case of Jersey City
In the 1980s, Jersey City became one of the first municipalities to undergo state intervention aimed at tackling the managerial bankruptcy and the faulty school system that did not meet students’ needs. In 1988, New Jersey’s education commissioner announced that he was reluctant to appeal to higher authorities. However, public school officers proved to be unable to address the deficiency in three years – time that was given to them before the final assessment (Avrich 203).
All in all, the system’s faults were so pervasive that the city needed a restructured Board of Education and better expertise. As of now, New Jersey ranks second among the country’s states for best school education. Moreover, students show proficiency in math and reading, and a negligibly small share of them drops out of school (McCann). Experts attribute outstanding results to the state’s funding policies and the value put on the teaching profession.
It is evident from the overview that state intervention is not inherently beneficial or detrimental to school systems. While the appointment of emergency manager and takeover failed Detroit and the state’s schoolchildren, Jersey City has recovered from school system stagnation and went above and beyond in meeting students’ needs. It is safe to assume that state takeovers are not the only decisive factor when it comes to education system restoration. Further research will be done to pinpoint other underlying causes that help to predict the success or lack thereof of state takeovers.
Avrich, Paul. The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States. Vol. 309, Princeton University Press, 2014.
Gross, Bethany, and Paul T. Hill. “The State Role in K-12 Education: From Issuing Mandates to Experimentation.” Harvard Law and Policy Review, vol. 10, 2016, p. 299.
McCann, Adam. “States with the Best & Worst School Systems.” WalletHub, 2018. Web.
McGuire, Kent, et al. A Failing Grade for K-12 State Takeovers. 2016. Web.
Morel, Domingo. Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy. Oxford University Press, 2018.
Solomon, Lewis D. Detroit: Three Pathways to Revitalization. Routledge, 2018.