Review: ‘Money, Mandates, and Local Control in American Public Education’

9 Nov

Moi was sent a review copy of the the new book Money, Mandates, and Local Control in American Public Education ( Money Mandates) by the publisher, The University of Michigan Press. All moi can say is that good things sometimes come in small packages. With notes and indexes the book is only 200 pages, but it contains some big ideas. Professor Shelly who teaches at Wake Forest University examines what he describes as the “Piper Link” which he describes at page seven. “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.” He uses the “Piper Link” to examine how education which most Americans describe as a local concern has increasing become more centralized.

Moi has repeated often at the blog, the following principle:

A Healthy Child In A Healthy Family Who Attends A Healthy School In A Healthy Neighborhood. ©

As a proponent of the neighborhood school concept, moi was particularly interested in the definition of “local control” used by Professor Shelly He uses the definition of David Berman which focuses on the ability to make meaningful decisions. The locus of decision making is examined by Shelly as he examines many types of financial centralization.

The book is very clearly and concisely written. The charts and tables which are included with the text are there to explain the concepts and not merely for padding. The central thesis of the effect that finance centralization has on state regulation and thus local control is handled with an economy of writing which does not diminish one’s comprehension of the subject matter. Of particular interest in Shelly’s analysis of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Table 7.1 at pages 138 -139. At page 151, Shelly makes the following analysis:

There is good reason to believe that money’s role in ensuring NCLB compliance represents a general trend in which a small amount of the total funding burden is enough to ensure decentralized-level compliance with centralized-level education regulation.

In other words, a smaller amount of yeast than people think necessary is making the bread of centralized control over education arise.

Moi was particularly encouraged with Shelly’s concluding remarks at page 165:

As with all big normative questions, no correct answer exists. People’s deepest political beliefs will determine the extent to which they want to revitalize local government or ensure other outcomes more easily achieved through state and federal government. This book offers the lesson that the United States can make that choice.

Money Mandates is not only a good read, but a must read for those who wonder why there is a one-size-fits-all approach occurring more frequently in education.


Shelly, Bryan

Money, mandates, and local control in American public education

ISBN 978-0-472-11765-9 (hardback)

ISBN 978-0-472-02673-9 (e-book)

Dr. Wilda gives a thumbs up to the book Money, Mandates, and Local Control in American Public Education, This is a highly recommend.

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