School Control: Where Things Stand
March 24th, 2009

Update: We left out at least two reports suggesting changes in the current system of mayoral control: one from the Campign for Better Schools and one from David Bloomfield of Brooklyn College. Links to these and other proposals after the jump. Let us know if there are any more we should include.

Also our original report misrepresented the position of the Parent Commission on School Governance. The post has been updated to address this.

With the Assembly now having concluded its round of hearings on mayoral control of the city’s public schools — they held one session in each borough — a few things seems clear.

For one, as Elizabeth Green, notes in Gotham Schools, the Bloomberg administration’s effort to court state legislators does not seem to have succeeded. “Lawmakers are not happy with the system they created. Some have become even less happy during the hearings,” Green wrote. At the final hearing in Brooklyn on Friday, she reported, Bloomberg’s lobbyist on the issue, Micah Lasher (considered by many an extremely odd choice to lead a “charm offensive”) “appeared distressed…. At one point, he threw up his hands and retreated to a seat just beyond the officials, where he rubbed his sinuses vigorously.”

One can understand Lasher’s frustration.
The department, which trumpets its propensity for statistical measurements, ran into flak Friday when it could not, in response to a question from Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, provide the graduation rate for black males. Jeffries said the number is 32 percent. (The rate for blacks overall according to a 2008 education department report, was about 47 percent but males generally have lower graduation rate than females.)

Perhaps most significantly, though, the debate — despite the way it often is couched — remains not so much about whether to get rid of mayoral control or keep it but whether to amend the system and if so how. “There seemed to be an unbridgeable chasm between supporters and opponents of mayoral control. But upon examination, there were few who didn’t support greater checks and balances on the powers of the mayor and chancellor and increased parent input,” Ellen Bilofsky wrote on NYC Public School Parents.

On the other hand, there also seem to be few, if any, people calling for the legislature to allow the current law to sunset so we can return to the days of the Board of Education, 110 Livingston Street (now a luxury condo) and embattled chancellors. Virtually no one defends the old administration of the schools — not surprising considering its closing days featured Rudolph Giuliani’s wholesale attacks on the system and teachers and even his plea that the state give the city less money for schools. It would be difficult not to do better than that.

The question then, becomes, how to change the existing system or as Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott told Gotham Gazette last year, “People say, ‘We really dont want to go back to the old system, but ‘What is the but? The but is always key,”

Almost everyone has weighed in with their “but,” offering proposals on how to change mayoral control. Some would tweak it a bit; the Parent Commission would replace it with something new. (Click on the name to read the proposal,)

Comptroller William Thompson;

United Federation of Teachers;

Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (a.k.a the principals union);

Commission on School Governance, appointed by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum;

Parent Commission on School Governance;

Community District Education Council 26.

– Campaign for Better Schools, descirbed here.

By on March 24, 2009, 2:04 pm
In category: Albany,Education | 3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “School Control: Where Things Stand”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 8:02 am

    You left out the most important factor — fair school funding within the city, which no one is talking about. That is what is going to be undone, and NO ONE will talk about it. It is as if it didn’t exist.

  2. justbeworks Says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 9:08 am

    The Parent Commission (of which I am an active member) is very much anti-mayoral control!

    How was that not clear to your reporter?

    From the knowledge shared and outcomes of our public forums where we heard from education experts about mayoral control both here and in other cities– to our detailed failings of the system in testimony given at the hearings, to lobbying in Albany and the written proposal absolutely removing dictatorial, mayoral control in our RECOMMENDATIONS ON SCHOOL GOVERNANCE to the NY state legislators, the Parent Commission stands firm: we want an end to mayoral control.

    We are insisting that our elected mayor, a public servant, think and act on the premise of building democratic “PARTNERSHIPS” — and that doesn’t mean with the wealthy business community and real estate developers as is the current norm– but with the school communities. in other words, the mayor has to be a responsible partner with the city’s education stakeholders, who the Parent Commission has decidedly identified as parents, students, teachers, administrators and the local community in the district.

    Please consider correcting your article to reflect this.

  3. Gail Says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 11:06 am

    justbeworks is correct, and I did know that. In writing, though, I sloppily equated favoring mayoral control with not wanting to return to the old system. They are obviously not the same thing. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

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