State Takeovers of Low-Performing Schools: A Record of Academic Failure, Financial Mismanagement & Student Harm
Low-performing public schools have become a critical battleground between corporate-backed initiatives that remove local control of schools and favor the privatization of public education, and proponents of community schools who assert that parents, teachers and students—in short, the public—are the greatest asset in restoring strong educational outcomes.
In the past decade, the debate over school control has shifted to include “takeover districts” in which schools that are deemed “chronically failing” are removed from the local school district
and placed in a statewide district with a separate governance structure that is far less transpar- ent and accountable to the public. Three states, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan, had already established districts of this kind by 2014. Another eight states have introduced legislation to create statewide takeover districts in the last year: Arkansas, Georgia, Nevada, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.1
The rapid proliferation of the takeover district as an educational panacea is alarming. In this report, we examine the record of the three existing takeover districts, and find that there is no clear evi- dence that takeover districts actually achieve their stated goals of radically improving performance at failing schools. We find that:
Children have seen negligible improvement—or even dramatic setbacks—in their education- al performance.
State takeover districts have created a breeding ground for fraud and mismanagement at the public’s expense.
Staff face high turnover and instability, creating a disrupted learning environment for children.
Students of color and those with special needs face harsh disciplinary measures and dis- criminatory practices that further entrench a two-tiered educational system.