Education Councils: Weak by Design
October 3rd, 2011

Whatever else it has and has not done, the system of mayoral control of schools as practiced in New York City must have set some kind of record for the creation of toothless bodies.

The chief one of course is the Panel for Educational Policy, which as Patrick Sullivan, a member, wrote on New York Public School Parents, routinely rubber stamps Department of Education contracts even ones dripping with corruption such as the agreement with Future Technology Associates.

The impotence of the PEP is hardly surprising Bloomberg always vowed the body would not do anything. But committed parents across the five borough hoped the Community Education Councils, heirs to the former Community School Board might function a bit better. They were, alas, wrong.

A report released by four of the five borough presidents (all but Staten Island James Molinaro), Pubic Advocate Bill de Blasio and parent leaders, tells some of the sad history of the councils under this administration, focusing to a large extent on the repeatedly botched election for members in 2011.

To remedy this and other ills, the report calls for major changes in the current two-tier voting system, where parents first cast an advisory vote and then leaders of parent organizations in the respective area make the final choice. The borough presidents et al would replace that with an actual election among parents. They would also improve training for council members, call for the councils to do more outreach and revise the council’s responsibilities. (Now the most meaningful thing they do is approve school zones within the district, influencing which neighborhood sends its children to what school.)

Perhaps most notably, the report’s writers would take the responsibility for the councils away from the Department of Education and give it to an independent nonprofit or government body.

“Its time for us to give [the councils] a role in our city’s public schools — and to unleash the full, untapped potential of our CECs,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a statement accompanying the report.

That is precisely what the administration does not want. As far as the administration is concern things are pretty, pretty good just the way they are.

Just look back to the fight over renewing mayoral control of schools in 2009, the administration staunchly resisted governance changes. It used its substantial muscle and money no doubt to block a modest proposal to have the PEP members serve fixed terms. The mayor would still have controlled an overwhelming majority he just couldn’t fire them on a whim. (Something, of course, that he has done.)

There is no reason to think the mayor is not happy with the Community Education Council as they now stand except of course that the effort to keep them weak sometimes kicks up some negative publicity as happened with the elections last year. When it comes to the panel and the councils, the administration has gotten what it wanted.

“Parents feel that their voices have been diminished, not strengthened, by the current system,” Stringer said in his statement.

Well, yes, that was the idea, wasn’t it?

By on October 3, 2011, 3:20 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Electoral Politics | 2 Comments »

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