Elect the DC State Superintendent of Education?
I am torn about "statehood" for DC. People mostly make the argument that statehood is a right. The fact is that historically, statehood wasn't a right, territories had to meet certain conditions in order to be able to become states. One of the conditions was financial sustainability. Likely petitions from places with a lot of corrupt practices weren't seen as strong candidates for statehood, etc.
My point about "statehood" is that if DC wants to become a state, it needs to set higher aspirations, and act like a state, proving the case, rather than just whining about how we deserve it.
One of the ways to do this would be to be a shining example of democracy in "state-level" governance.
In the past I have proposed that:
1. the number of wards and number of City Councilmembers should be expanded, in part to reposition the Council more like a Legislature (but unicameral), but also to make it harder to pass legislation and to reduce the caudillo-like control that Councilmembers have within wards*;
2. the Attorney General should become elected, as it is in most states ("The DC elections and the referendum on the Attorney General")--voters approved this in 2010, the Executive Branch opposes this and the City Council abruptly delayed the creation of the independent office a couple months ago;
3. the Inspector General position in the Executive Branch and the Auditor position in the Legislative Branch should be eliminated in favor of an elected "Public Advocate" (which is what the position is called in New York City) but with stronger, and independent, powers*;
4. We should elect the CFO maybe, too (equivalent to a Comptroller in other cities), see "The DC Chief Financial Officer position: what is to be done? Make it elected!," although there is no question that such positions, depending on the level of control over awarding contracts, can be abused (see "As Pension Chief, Thompson Gave Work to Donors" from the New York Times);
5. we should return to having a school board that oversees the public schools, instead of rolling all those functions into the Mayor's Office, with spotty oversight from the City Council* (* = discussed in this blog entry, "Continued musing on restructuring DC's City Council (mostly).")
Earlier this week it was announced that Mayor Gray wishes to appoint Jesus Aguirre, currently director of the Parks and Recreation Department, as State Superintendent of Education. See "Jesús Aguirre to be DC's new state superintendent for education" from the Washington Post. The appointment must be approved by City Council.
DC is treated as a state by the federal government for administrative purposes, so like the "real" states, we have a State Department of Education providing oversight of various school functions--except that unlike in every other "state", the oversight functions for K-12 public schools has been for the most part taken away.
In most states and in DC, the "State Board of Education" is popularly elected.
In the majority of states, the chief officer of the Department of Education, typically called a Superintendent, is not appointed by the Executive, but by the State Board of Education. In a handful of states, but including California, the State Superintendent of Education is popularly elected.
(In Michigan, public universities are treated as a fourth branch of government, and the boards of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University are popularly elected; note that three other states elect the boards of public universities in a similar fashion.)
In order to have separation of powers and proper oversight, DC's State Board of Education should get back the authority to oversee K-12 public education.
And either the Superintendent should be appointed by the State Board of Education or elected. The Superintendent of the public school system should be chosen in a different fashion.
This would be another plank in the argument that DC should "earn" statehood, because it is behaving as states should and do.
Labels: civic engagement, electoral politics and influence, government oversight, organizational behavior, participatory democracy and empowered participation, public education/K-12, separation of powers