7.2 Governance Issues
Some reformers view local school boards as agents for change. In some
cities (for example, Houston and San Diego), citizen groups have invested enormous energy to field and support candidates with a shared reform agenda. In California, where court decisions and Proposition 13 have removed school boards authority to set tax rates, most school board elections are relatively sleepy affairs with low voter turnout.
Voters are usually surprised to learn that mayors and city councils have virtually no direct influence on what happens in schools in their city. The voters of several large US cities (New York and Chicago are the examples most often cited) have made political changes to put their mayors in substantial control of the schools, either directly or through power to appoint members to the school board.
Few mayors in California have expressed interest in this sort of change, perhaps in part because state policy is more constraining in California than in other states. In 2007, the mayor of Los Angeles aimed to prove otherwise by enlisting the state legislature in an attempt to take over the 700,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District. The attempt resulted in a further blurring of responsibility which adds the mayor to the mix of those involved in school governance.
Between school districts and the state are County offices of education, which are among the least broadly understood entities in the structure of California education. An excellent blog post by Emily Alpert explains their function, at least in San Diego.