In early 2007, concerns about the performance of Seattle's school board led to many proposals for a shift from election to appointment as a method of choosing school board members and to greater mayoral involvement in oversight of the school system. A prominent state senator drafted a mayoral takeover bill. Mayor Greg Nickels openly contemplated intervening in some way and people close to the mayor suggested that if he took responsibility for the schools he might appoint widely admired former Mayor Norman Rice as superintendent. Though talk of an immediate change in governance died down as citizens welcomed a new school superintendent and prepared to elect a new majority of school board members, many civic leaders expected mayoral intervention proposals to come back the next time the school system encountered a crisis, whether connected with finance, labor relations, or unequal student outcomes.
Leaders of Seattle's business and foundation communities, working through the Seattle Foundation, asked the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) to review other cities' experiences with mayoral intervention. This paper is the result. It reflects our survey of other cities' experiences, and extensive analysis of the evidence on results. Our goal is neither to advocate nor debunk the idea of mayoral intervention, but to provide an evidence base for use in case takeover proposals surface again in Seattle.