This article is published in Harvard Educational Review, Volume 76, Number 2, Summer 2006
Mayors who are considering taking over their cities' school systems—or even just getting more involved—will need to handle major financial problems. This is certainly true in cases where district bankruptcy or financial mismanagement is the precipitating cause for needing a new mayoral role. But even when the immediate problem is school performance, mayors are likely to find that city school districts are financially chaotic and overcommitted. District budgets often hide the major financial problems afflicting most big-city school systems, and district leaders—including superintendents and budget officers—often do not understand them.