When the state takes over, can local democracy survive? Over 100 school districts have been taken over by state governments since the late 1980s. In doing so, state officials relieve local officials, including those elected by local residents, of the authority to operate public schools. In cities with an increasingly powerful group of African-American leaders, a state takeover has the potential to roll-back gains in descriptive representation and democratic governance.
How this has played out is the purpose of Domingo Morel
's new book, Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy
(Oxford University Press, 2018). Morel focuses on two cities, Central Falls, RI and Newark, NJ, as well as original quantitative data from cities across the country. What he discovers is a very real threat to local democracy, but one that has played out different ways. The case of Newark differs greatly from Central Falls, and Morel shows what we can learn about racial and ethnic politics by focusing on the changing ways that schools are operated.
Morel is assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University, Newark.