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Board Might Be Stripped of Some Roles

Mary Landrieu and Clifford B. Janey
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who drafted the measure in consultation with school board and council members, wants a clear separation of roles. Schools chief Clifford B. Janey has tried to accomplish that but says the rules should also apply to other city agencies with similar conflicts of interest. (File Photos)

Under the Senate legislation, the school board would be required to hire consultants to draft a measure calling for the separation of the system's state and local roles.

Among the unresolved issues is who would fund the budget of a new governing authority and its staff, although some officials suggested that federal money might be available to cover some expenses.

Elected officials and education policy experts in the District have long debated separating powers in the school system. In 2000, during the financial control board era, the city shifted several state-level functions -- including oversight of the per-student funding formula, student enrollment and residency verification, and some nutrition programs -- from the school system to the mayor's newly established State Education Office.

Several council efforts to shift more state-level duties from the school board to the State Education Office were largely opposed by the board.

Now, with state-level duties taking up more of the board's time, several of its members are supporting the Senate proposal.

"I strongly support the language" in the legislation, said Tommy Wells (District 3), who plans to introduce a resolution tomorrow endorsing the proposal. "We're both a city and a state. . . . This is a way to improve accountability."

Board member JoAnne Ginsberg said: "For too long, people have been working partly for the local education agency and partly for the state education agency. It's confusing. The lines are blurred, and this should not be."

Williams's spokesman, Vince Morris, said: "The mayor sees no higher priority than improving the performance of our school system and helping more children to learn. If a task force determines that adjusting the structure of the school board allows money to be spent more efficiently, we say bring it on."

The measure also has the support of council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), who chairs the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation.

Janey, who in recent months has moved to better delineate and separate state and local roles, said he, too, supports the proposal. But he said other city agencies with similar conflicts should be included.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," he said. The mayor and council "have state functions, too. I don't think the legislation went far enough."

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