Research Shows School District Takeovers Don’t Work

Our anti-democracy, anti-public school, state superintendent has been keeping us all in suspense over his threatened takeover of Tulsa Public Schools. Apparently, he thinks TPS is doing a really bad job and he can march in and turn things around. Never mind that he has no school administration experience, he doesn’t like public schools, he doesn’t approve of diversity (maybe he doesn’t know that most TPS students are non-white), he wants to limit what students are allowed to read, and he would like to see all schools become fundamentalist Sunday schools ala Hillsdale College.

Not that Ryan Walters cares for research, but research shows that school takeovers are not successful. I suspect a takeover by someone with no plan for the district would be catastrophic. Superintendent Gist asked what his plan would be for TPS, and Mr. Walters didn’t have a response. He did say that he has been in close communication with Houston. A recent Hechinger Report said this about Houston: “Citizens who spoke almost uniformly opposed the proposal, with many arguing it was the first step in an effort to privatize district public schools. It failed on a 5-4 vote,” and this: “At least three studies have found that takeovers don’t increase academic achievement. The latest, a May 2021 working paper by researchers from Brown University and the University of Virginia, looked at all 35 state takeovers between 2011 and 2016. ‘On average, we find no evidence that takeover generates academic benefits,’ the researchers concluded.”

The article goes on to point out that “Race…plays a role in the likelihood of a district being taken over.” The study co-author Beth Schueler found that Black districts “were more likely to be taken over even when their academic performance was similar to that in white districts not taken over.”

Who knows what Ryan Walters has planned for Tulsa Public Schools. Maybe he’ll do the dramatic reveal in one of his car videos. While he’s driving around throwing false accusations at TPS, Tulsa is waiting. It’s not funny to lose your democratically elected school board. Families will no longer have a say in what happens in their children’s schools. It’s not funny to think about what kind of curriculum chaos Ryan Walters could create. What happens when school districts lose their accreditation? How many years does it take to recover from that?

It’s sad. It’s sad that adults act this way. Wouldn’t it be great to see some mature adults put grandstanding and politics aside to really work together to create great public schools? Our children are watching. What kind of example is Ryan Walters setting for them?

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