Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/85 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 12:24:41 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Senate Holds Second Mayoral Control Hearing, Without the Mayor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6347:senate-holds-second-mayoral-control-hearing-without-the-mayor http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6347:senate-holds-second-mayoral-control-hearing-without-the-mayor de blasio business leaders buery farina

De Blasio at City Hall on Wednesday (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)


Just one day after Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at City Hall with a bevy of business leaders to push for extending mayoral control of New York City schools, the state Senate education committee held its second hearing on the issue right across the street. Administration officials, education professionals and advocates testified to make their case for and against mayoral control (mostly for) as state Senators demanded answers on a wide range of educational policies, while repeatedly noting the conspicuous absence of the mayor himself.

The debate around mayoral control has reignited as the June 30 deadline for extending it fast approaches. The Democrat-controlled Assembly gave the mayor a three-year extension on Tuesday and the ball is now in the Senate’s court, where Republicans who have control of the chamber have been reluctant to extend it beyond one year, if at all. The mayor has spent the last few weeks pushing his administration’s accomplishments to make his case for extending mayoral control for seven years. Having spent four hours at the first hearing in Albany on May 4 arguing for a seven-year extension, de Blasio declined to testify on Thursday. His absence was not taken lightly.

“We are missing the mayor, and he’s the chief player and he’s the person in charge and we would like him to have been here,” said Senator Carl Marcellino, chair of the education committee, in his opening remarks. Without giving examples, he stressed that many questions from the May 4 hearing had been left unanswered and the mayor should have been there to answer them.

Instead, the administration was represented by schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who had testified by the mayor’s side in Albany. Throughout her testimony, Fariña sought to establish the gains from mayoral control - increased graduation rates, fewer dropouts, the implementation of universal pre-kindergarten, increased arts education investment, the success of the Renewal Schools program, to name a few.

“Mayoral control also allows us to plan more fully and with more confidence for the future,” Fariña said. “Without mayoral control it would be nearly impossible for a mayor to lay out a long-term detailed vision for our schools such as Equity and Excellence.”

Marcellino, while insisting that Fariña’s testimony was “fantastic,” bookended it with another call out to the mayor. “This would’ve been a better situation if the mayor was here to defend his, and I don’t mean defend in a negative way, but to defend his running of the city schools,” Marcellino said. Other Senators made similar remarks throughout the hearing, including Senators Jose Peralta of Queens and Simcha Felder of Brooklyn.

While the stated agenda of the hearing was mayoral control, it was quickly apparent that it would not be limited solely to the system as a governing structure for education policy-making. Over the course of four-and-a-half hours, the hearing touched on numerous aspects of education policy and planning in the city - overcrowding, school closures, school safety, the number of psychologists per student, the Panel for Educational Policy, and the ever-touchy subject of charters schools.

As he often does, Senator Bill Perkins of Manhattan in particular railed against charter schools, stressing that they are an outcropping of the “dictatorial” mayoral control system. At one point during the hearing, Marcellino seemed to rebuke Perkins for deviating from the issue at hand and even offered to hold a separate hearing on charters. A similar scene had unfolded at the May 4 hearing. In this case, Farina was forced to carefully answer charter school-related questions that the de Blasio administration would rather avoid. After battles with charter school, the administration has moved toward a peaceful coexistence model, especially after new state laws forced their hand.

About 20 advocates, education professionals, and experts testified and most were in favor of mayoral control, albeit often with caveats. Some proposed shorter extensions while others proposed reforms to the system at various levels. Some emphasized that their support of mayoral control did not necessarily imply support for all of de Blasio’s policies, or even some. Indeed, the current situation creates an often dissonant reality where some of those who were the strongest proponents of mayoral control under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who first won the power in 2002, are now twisting in knots as they criticize de Blasio’s policies but do not go so far as to call for the end of mayoral control.

Others who testified did oppose mayoral control even while suggesting reforms if it is extended. “Any system of governance must have checks and balances,” said Teresa Arboleda, chair of the Education Council Consortium’s legislative committee, insisting on more local control and parent input in educational policy. “We cannot have a new school system every time there is a new mayor.”

Some of the reforms proposed included:

  • Changes in composition to the Panel for Educational Policy to allow it more independence and insulate it against ‘rubber-stamping’ the mayor’s decisions
  • Reforms in how Community Education Councils are constituted, making CECs more transparent and giving them increased authority
  • Expanding the Citywide Council on Special Education
  • Mandatory experience and qualifications for the schools chancellor
  • More clearly defined discipline policies
  • Equal treatment of charter schools as compared to district schools
  • More transparency in Department of Education contract procurement and policy making

Jacob Mnookin, founder and executive director of Coney Island Preparatory Charter School, supports an extension of the system, he said, but insisted that the mayor should stop letting his political agenda interfere with student education. The mayor has been a very vocal opponent of the charter school movement in the city. “All public school students deserve to be treated equally no matter what politics are at play,” said Mnookin. “The mayor must address these inequalities present in the public school system of New York City.”

The two most important people were not at Thursday's hearing, though: Mayor de Blasio and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. Flanagan, formerly chair of the education committee and a critic of de Blasio, had chastised the mayor's refusal to appear before the committee a second time in a Wednesday statement. Though he was not there, Flanagan had also criticized de Blasio after the May 4 hearing in Albany, saying he had not answered many of the questions posed to him in a satisfactory fashion, which surprised many who had witnessed it. Flanagan will negotiate extension of mayoral control with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a de Blasio ally, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is in a long-standing feud with the mayor. Cuomo did call for a three-year extension of mayoral control in his January budget.

Although there emerged plenty of ideas about how to change the system on Thursday, and ample criticism of its weaknesses, most people did not want to see a reversion to the old school board system. Not many could even articulate what would happen if mayoral control did indeed lapse. The final speaker of the day, Dennis Walcott, president and CEO of the Queens Library system, perhaps had the most informed perspective on that issue. Walcott served as Schools Chancellor before Farina and deputy mayor of education under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He stressed that the old Board of Education system was chaotic and plagued by “patronage, waste, dysfunction” and that mayoral control reversed that. “Mayoral control is about making the mayor, elected by the people of New York City, take responsibility for the education of our city and effectuate the best education possible for our children,” he said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Senate Holds Second Mayoral Control Hearing, Without the Mayor Fri, 20 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Concerns Over Proceedings as De Blasio Administration Faces Second Mayoral Control Hearing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6341:extension-of-mayoral-school-control-politicized-some-say http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6341:extension-of-mayoral-school-control-politicized-some-say de blasio farina state senate

De Blasio testifying in Albany (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)


It was supposed to be the grilling to end all grillings: Mayor Bill de Blasio seated at a small table, staring up at glowering Republican state Senators carrying major grudges for his work to oust them from power in the 2014 elections, all carrying the fate of his ability to enact education policy in the palm of their hands. That wasn’t what took place.

The May 4 hearing in Albany on mayoral control of city schools featured four hours of meandering questioning, polite responses, and a generally cordial atmosphere. There was no major comeuppance despite one seemingly scripted attempt by Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy to chide de Blasio for the investigations he currently faces. Murphy’s staff quickly blasted out a press release about how he had challenged the mayor.

It was surprising to many who had witnessed the hearing when, the day after, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan issued a statement blasting the mayor’s testimony and calling his competence into question. “Too often, the mayor showed a disturbing lack of personal knowledge about the city schools. In addition, he has left too many unanswered questions and failed to provide specifics on many of the issues raised by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Flanagan said in a statement. “Until that occurs, I will not entrust this mayor with the awesome responsibility of operating the New York City school system.”

Flanagan’s statement on the hearing convinced many Democrats and education advocates that the two May hearings on mayoral control are politically motivated. The de Blasio administration - represented by schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, but not the mayor - is scheduled to testify again during a hearing in Manhattan on Thursday. Flanagan released a statement Wednesday morning criticizing the mayor for the decision not to testify: "I am extremely disappointed the Mayor doesn't believe this hearing is significant enough to attend," he said. "With the future of mayoral control at stake, Mayor de Blasio has left too many unanswered questions about his stewardship of the New York City school system." 

The mayor was granted just a one-year extension of mayoral control last year. His predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was the first to be given mayoral control by the state - which provided an original term of seven years in 2002, followed by a six year extension that was due to expire last year.

Testimony for both of this month’s hearings has been “by invitation only” and according to a number of parents, education groups, and Senate Democrats several parents have been told they will not be allowed to testify and instead can submit written testimony. Senate Republicans released a list of those who will testify on Thursday - like the first hearing, it is heavy on charter school supporters and others in the education reform community.

On Tuesday, the Assembly passed a three-year extension of mayoral control. The Democratic Assembly Majority had previously supported a seven-year extension. De Blasio issued a statement thanking the Assembly.

“Along with a bipartisan coalition of New Yorkers, we refuse to subject more than one million schoolchildren to the dysfunction and chaos of the old system,” de Blasio’s statement reads. “We once again urge swift approval by the entire legislature of this proven governance structure.”

The three-year extension is seen by many as a concession to Senate Republicans. Some Democrats privately worry that Senate Republicans will push for another single-year extension - something Gov. Andrew Cuomo, locked in an ongoing feud with de Blasio, would likely support, as he did last year.

“I was very surprised to hear Senator Flanagan’s assessment of the mayor’s testimony mainly because he didn't attend the hearing,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat from Manhattan, who questioned the mayor at the hearing. “I thought the mayor was on point, answered directly, and seemed to have command of the issues. I was gratified following the hearing that some of my Republicans colleagues agreed.”

Hoylman said Flanagan's statement, “made it pretty obvious this has little to do with the well-being of 1.1 million public school kids and has become a proverbial political football.”

Sen. Liz Krueger, also a Manhattan Democrat, expressed a similar take on Flanagan’s statement. Saying it “did not seem to reflect my observations at the hearing, nor my discussions with senators in attendance. I think there was general agreement between Democrats and Republicans that the mayor and his team did an excellent job answering questions. And they all supported mayoral control.”

De Blasio was flanked in Albany by city Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, who will be at the center of attention on Thursday, as well as aides.

Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino, the education committee chair who oversaw the hearings in a steady fashion, did not return requests for comment; neither did Flanagan’s office.

Hoylman said he has yet to decide whether he will attend the next hearing, saying he has concerns they are a “kangaroo court.”

Krueger expressed her concerns about the process by which people were invited to testify. She and Hoylman said they had heard from parents and parent groups who were told they could not testify in person and were asked to submit testimony.

“I hope that the people who testify at round two of the hearing represent parents, teachers, principals and local elected officials,” said Krueger. “They were not heard in Albany at Round 1.” After de Blasio and Farina, many of the speakers at the first hearing were tied to charter schools, which are largely supported by Senate Republicans. De Blasio has been the target of protests and campaigns by charter groups because he has not been a supporter of charter schools and sought to limit their growth.

Shino Tanikawa, president of Community Education Council District 2, said she has made multiple attempts to testify as a parent at the upcoming hearing, contacting Marcellino’s office as well as a number of other legislators. She said the last communication was from Marcellino’s office telling her she could submit written testimony. She’s given up on testifying in person.

Tanikawa said she has been put off by the entire process. “The Albany hearing was very skewed because you had quite a few people in support of charter schools,” said Tanikawa. “I don't think there were any parents at the hearing. This next one seems pretty opaque, all we know is there is a hearing. We don’t know who is testifying or how long it's going to last.” (One of the charter school supporters who testified in Albany is a parent who also helps lead a pro-charter group.)

Tanikawa wondered why the hearing isn’t held in the fashion of the City Council where testimony is open to the public and those who sign up to testify do so under a specified time limit.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, will be testifying at Thursday’s hearing, but she is also disheartened by the process. “I’m very concerned that this has turned into a political football,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette of mayoral control of schools. “Many parents were against mayoral control under Bloomberg and they still are against it now under Bill de Blasio. This is about a system, but the Legislature seems to change their minds depending on who's in office. They don’t care that it leads to irrational policy and unwise spending.”

Haimson was not impressed with the level of questioning at the first hearing, saying it was tangential and without much substance. “I don’t think Albany has much to say about New York City’s schools. They should stay out of it. It would be better if it were up to the [City] Council, people who serve closer to the people. There is no reason this decision should be made upstate.”

On Wednesday afternoon, de Blasio will lead a press conference at City Hall with business leaders who support an extension of mayoral control.

Sen. Hoylman said that although he is appreciative that the Senate is actually holding a hearing on an important legislative issue he is concerned these hearings are being used as political leverage.

“I think it is the height of hypocrisy that they authorized the previous mayor twice because of an increase in test scores and graduation rates and that's exactly seen under Mayor de Blasio’s tenure. This is clearly an application of a double standard and I wouldn't be so upset if I wasn’t a city resident with a five-year-old in public school myself. The fact that we have non-New York city legislators without kids deciding who is overseeing this system makes no sense. Hearing from parents in the system is crucial to understanding its efficacy.”

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note: this story has been updated with news that de Blasio will not be testifying at Thursday's hearing and with comment from Sen. Flanagan.

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Concerns Over Proceedings as De Blasio Administration Faces Second Mayoral Control Hearing Tue, 17 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
In Albany, De Blasio Argues for Mayoral Control Extension http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6320:in-albany-de-blasio-argues-for-extension-of-mayoral-control http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6320:in-albany-de-blasio-argues-for-extension-of-mayoral-control de blasio testimony senate

De Blasio testifies in Albany (photo via @KellyCummings)


Mayor Bill de Blasio received a generally friendly welcome from Senate Republicans throughout several hours of testimony in Albany on Wednesday during a hearing on mayoral control of city schools. De Blasio was peppered with questions regarding issues such as special education, charter school co-locations, mental health services, and school space, but the issue of mayoral control as a governance structure was addressed head on only in limited doses.

For his part, de Blasio touted gains in graduation rates and test scores, he spoke of the growth of universal pre-kindergarten and community schools and explained new goals around literacy rates and computer science courses. He even pointed to the number of weak teachers let go during his administration. The mayor was flanked by his schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, who often added specifics to bolster the mayor’s argument or answer questions from legislators.

The hearing could have come at a better time for the mayor - Senate Republicans have recently seized on news of investigations facing de Blasio around his involvement in 2014 efforts to win the chamber for Democrats. De Blasio has been plagued by a series of investigations by federal, state, and city authorities into his fundraising practices.

Sen. Terrence Murphy was the only Senate Republican to bring up the matter during the hearing. "Why I should vote for mayoral control with all the allegations that are going on in your office?" Murphy asked de Blasio.

De Blasio asked Murphy to consider facts such as a 70 percent graduation rate and other successes, adding, “We don't literally know of any other alternative.” De Blasio addressed the allegations saying, "In a democracy, we don't judge by allegations, we judge by facts." Murphy countered that “trust” was still an issue.

De Blasio has served as an electoral boogeyman for Senate Republicans across the state for the last two years, but tensions have heightened in the wake of the investigations and the results of a special election on Long Island where Democrats won the seat that was long held by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Bad feelings, largely emanating from de Blasio’s involvement in the 2014 election cycle, resulted in a one-year extension of mayoral control last year. De Blasio cried foul pointing out his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was granted a seven-year extension.

This year, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan insisted mayoral control not be addressed as part of the state budget, an agreement on which was reached March 31, and invited de Blasio to testify at two public hearings. The second will be May 19 in New York City.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly has advocated a seven-year extension, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed three. At the end of his opening testimony, during which he highlighted his long support for mayoral control of city schools and the bipartisan nature of overall support, de Blasio asked for a seven-year extension.

Wednesday’s hearing was more dominated by specific concerns from Democrats about schools in their districts than any hostility from Senate Republicans. Education committee chair Sen. Carl Marcellino led the hearing with little fanfare, asking substantive questions and attempting to keep things focused and moving.

In his preparation for renewal this year de Blasio has referenced his predecessors and support from business groups in an attempt to paint the issue as non-partisan. It was a note he repeatedly hit during Wednesday’s hearing.

“We are in lockstep on mayoral control,” de Blasio said referring to Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. “It's a system that is superior to what we had before and there is no third way.”

Marcellino, a Long Island Republican like Flanagan, who was his predecessor as education chair, began the hearing by bluntly asking de Blasio about his previous stance on mayoral control. “There was point in time you didn't think highly of mayoral control, why did you change your mind?”

De Blasio quickly countered that his voting record demonstrates his support of the system, but said that he had been concerned in the past about parental involvement.

With that out of the way de Blasio delivered prepared testimony where he touted a familiar list of achievements including the city reaching 70 percent graduation rates for first time in its history; the enrollment of 68,000 students in pre-K, and a commitment to new goals and standards. De Blasio repeatedly thanked legislators for their support, specifically pointing to their approval of funding for pre-K.

There were a few moments of drama.

Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who is elected as a Democrat but caucuses with Republicans, complained of being ignored by the administration and demanded de Blasio promise to ease the process by which parents of students with special needs are ensured of an appropriate learning environment for their children by the beginning of the next school year. De Blasio commiserated with Felder on the importance of the issue, but declined to make such a broad promise. He did, however, commit to providing Felder with a letter describing what progress the city does intend to make. Felder appeared satisfied by the end of the exchange.

A number of Democrats including Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, a Brooklyn Democrat, appeared to urge de Blasio to distance himself from Bloomberg’s legacy on mayoral control but de Blasio declined, saying that he felt there had been “undeniable” progress made under Bloomberg, though he did note he thought recent improvements had been made to parental involvement.

De Blasio spoke carefully on the subject of charter schools, even while being offered several chances to criticize them by Senator Bill Perkins, a Manhattan Democrat who asked a series of charter-related questions. The mayor repeated his recent public opinions on charters by saying that they must enroll a student body representative of their surrounding areas and retain challenging students while also saying that the administration is working well with many charter schools.

Marcellino reminded Perkins that it was a hearing on mayoral control, not charter schools and Perkins explained that charters are a key piece of education policy, having noted that under Mayor Bloomberg charters began to proliferate in his district.

Gov. Cuomo and Senate Republicans have been very supportive of charter schools in the past, while de Blasio has often battled with the most high-profile charter network, Success Academy.

The individuals testifying immediately following de Blasio and Farina were tied to charter schools in various ways. They complained of the mayor’s treatment of the schools and expressed support for limiting the renewal of mayoral control. They noted that charter schools are subject to renewal after lengths of terms varying from five, two, or even one year. Testimony was by invitation only. A number of Democratic Senators said they had heard from parent groups that had requested to testify but were denied.

In one of the only direct questions regarding the city’s school governance system, Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, asked de Blasio what it would mean to have mayoral control renewed on a one-year basis.

“It creates instability,” said de Blasio, who added that it impacts larger initiatives to improve schools over a span of years. “It is a disservice to our children if we don't even know what our governance will be in a year. It doesn't allow us to achieve what we need to achieve.”

De Blasio and Farina both returned to a theme over their three hours of testimony that they haven’t been presented with an actual alternative to mayoral control. “To what end,” de Blasio asked of frequent debates over the system. “If there was an alternative on the table that is better I would debate it any day.”

Krueger suggested that perhaps the Legislature shouldn’t meddle in city school issues given that a lot of the issues discussed during the hearings including co-location and school space required hyper-local knowledge. “There are certain roles for the state Legislature that are important, there are others that we have to leave alone,” said Krueger.

De Blasio appeared to distance himself from that assertion. “We should be in regular dialogue,” he said. “There should be a partnership. We honor that fact and we want to be in regular communication about how we do things together.”

The mayor took a firm, but collaborative and deferential tone for most of the hearing, appearing to understand his audience and its power. He also surely knows, though, that Gov. Cuomo will have a lot of influence over the fate of mayoral control when the governor and legislative leaders negotiate any policy between now and the end of the session in June.

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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In Albany, De Blasio Argues for Mayoral Control Extension Wed, 04 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Senate Schedules De Blasio for Two Hearings on Mayoral Control of City Schools http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6241:senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6241:senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools bdb school visit

De Blasio makes a school appearance (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


The New York State Senate announced on Thursday afternoon that it has scheduled two hearings on mayoral control of New York City schools. Republicans who control the chamber have questioned Mayor Bill de Blasio's education policies, which are far different from his predecessor's, and only agreed to a one-year extension last year.

Mayoral control is set to expire June 30, and the two hearings - one in Albany and one in New York City - will occur in May. In his Executive Budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a three-year extension, while the Democrat-controlled Assembly called for seven years in its one-house budget. The Senate included no extension in its and appears to have concluded that mayoral control will be dealt with in the post-budget legislative session. The fiscal year 2017 state budget is due by the end of this month. The two hearings, at which de Blasio and his school chancellor Carmen Fariña are expected to appear, are scheduled for May 4 in Albany and May 19 in New York City.

State Senator Carl Marcellino, a Republican from Syosset, is chair of the education committee and will preside over the hearings. Marcellino replaced Senator John Flanagan as education chair when Flanagan became Majority Leader last year in the wake of former Senator Dean Skelos' corruption scandal. Flanagan has publicly questioned de Blasio's stewardship of the city's schools and said he expected to hold hearings on mayoral control.

"These hearings will provide an excellent opportunity to hear directly from Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Fariña, and a variety of education professionals on the merits and pitfalls of mayoral control," Marcellino said in a statement announcing the hearings. "Without a detailed and thoughtful exchange, it is difficult to craft an extension that is in the best interests of New York City's students and teachers. I look forward to gathering testimony on the current state of the Mayor's education policy, where it is and its future."

Asked for reaction and whether de Blasio will appear at the hearings, a mayoral spokesperson did not indicate if the mayor will participate in both, but did send a statement implying that he will. "Mayoral Control has empowered parents to hold their mayor accountable for success in our schools," wrote Amy Spitalnick of the mayor's office. "There's broad consensus across educators, business leaders, and the political spectrum that Mayoral Control works. Mayor de Blasio looks forward to presenting his vision for equity and excellence in our public schools, and articulating why Mayoral Control is the governance model that will make it a reality."

When the Senate released its one-house budget earlier this month without an extension of mayoral control of schools, Gotham Gazette asked Mayor de Blasio for his reaction at an unrelated press conference, saying that it looked like the Senate Republicans planned to pursue hearings on the subject after the budget.

"Which I've told Leader Flanagan I would welcome," de Blasio said of hearings, "and I would participate in personally. I made that very clear to him this year and last year."

"I welcome that dialogue," de Blasio added. "We have the highest graduation rate that we've ever had in New York City – over 70 percent. We have full-day pre-k for all. We have after-school for all middle school kids. We're making unprecedented investments in education – computer science for all is going to be online more and more. I welcome that discussion, and I think we have a lot of evidence to show, and I can certainly say there's a real broad cross-section of New Yorkers, including in the business community, the labor community, obviously educators who believe in mayoral control. That's a discussion I would be happy to participate in."

When he was seeking an extension of mayoral control of city schools last year, de Blasio rolled out a number of supporters from a variety of parties, including business leaders who have often been supportive of charter schools, which the mayor has been cool, if not hostile, toward and represent a key issue for Senate Republicans.

In announcing the hearings, Flanagan said in a statement, "Mayoral control hearings are necessary to provide transparency, accountability, and a better understanding of the long-term vision for educating all of New York City's students. Senator Marcellino and the members of the education committee will seek information about what is being done to fix underperforming schools and other specific plans to improve and strengthen the city school system so that the state's examination of mayoral control is as comprehensive as possible."

Asked earlier this month if he had reached out to Flanagan, de Blasio referenced his meeting with the Senate leader during a January visit to Albany for Gov. Cuomo's State of the State address. "I've already sat down with him, obviously, and talked to him about this," de Blasio said. "I've certainly made my case to him. It was a very good, respectful meeting. I think he heard my points. I'm not saying he agreed with all of them, but he heard them. He knows a lot about education, obviously, from his own work on the education committee in the Senate. And I welcome a dialogue – I told him I would happily appear at a hearing any time he needs."

Mayoral control of city schools was first granted to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002 and then extended. According to the state Senate, when it was renewed for six years in 2009, that decision came after "five hearings with more than 45 hours of testimony."

The Senate announcement sent out Thursday says that topics for the hearing will include "New York City's record of student performance, graduation rates, levels of college and career readiness; the effectiveness of having a single person accountable for the public school system as compared to the previous community board system; the implementation and performance of the pre-K system; coordination and cooperation with other public schools and private schools; and identifying educational issues in need of improvement. The hearing details are currently being finalized and once complete, the Committee will extend invitations to provide testimony."

De Blasio is sure to be asked about his approach to charter schools, as well as his Renewal Schools program that puts major investment of resources into the most struggling schools, seeking to avoid closing schools, which was a favored approach under Bloomberg. De Blasio is much more closely aligned with the teachers union than Bloomberg was - and Gov. Cuomo has largely been more in the Bloomberg camp on education policy, though he has shifted some over the last several months. De Blasio will certainly put his establishment of pre-kindergarten at the forefront.

The old system of education was under local school boards, which has been replaced by a centralized mayoral control, with the mayor appointing a chancellor and a majority of members to the Panel for Educational Policy, a decision-making board largely seen as a rubber stamp for the mayor and chancellor.

[Related: What is Flanagan Looking for From De Blasio on Mayoral Control?]

[Related: Flanked by Business Leaders, De Blasio Continues Mayoral Control Push]

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Senate Schedules De Blasio for Two Hearings on Mayoral Control of City Schools Thu, 24 Mar 2016 21:28:29 +0000