Thursday, July 22, 2004

Questioning Riordan's leadership

Richard Riordan wasn't my mayor but he certainly made more news than most LA mayors and so he's definitely a politician I've noticed. Now that he's the state Secretary of Education and a bona fide FOA's (friend of Arnold), he's still making news. That last gaffe echoed all around the nation and rightly so.

Peter Schrag took this opportunity to write a bit about our messed up CA educational system.
Does the distractible Riordan - or indeed anybody in the Schwarzenegger administration - really understand how California's complex education system works or what it would take to improve it? Riordan, the governor's longtime friend, came to office in thrall to the one-size-fits-all theories of UCLA management professor William Ouchi, who's certain that if you just give nearly all budget control to school-site managers - the principal, teachers, parents - all will be well.
But neither Ouchi nor Riordan and his novice staff seem to fully understand what that entails: that it would tend to undermine the state's accountability system, put more burdens on overstressed principals, create inconsistent curricula from school to school and, in any case, be virtually impossible to pull off. To compound the problem, no one else in the governor's shop - or in Riordan's - has any extended experience with schools and the complexity of school policy.
While I don't always agree with Schrag, I thought he pinpointed one issue repeated by the more political savvy PTA moms I know: does Riordan know what he's doing? And what about Ouchi? These are scary thoughts when your kid goes to public school in California.