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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Manhattan Assembly Election Focuses on Mayoral Control, "Accountability"

The special election being held today on Manhattan's Upper East Side has become the first political contest to raise mayoral control of the schools as a central campaign issue. In the race to succeed Pete Grannis, Republican Greg Camp has attacked Democrat Micah Kellner for suggesting that mayoral control needs to be reconsidered. Mayoral control will automatically expire in 2009. Kellner proposed that control of the schools should continue to be vested in the city but that the City Council have a greater role.

In an open letter, Camp complained that Kellner's proposal, by increasing the oversight role of the council, would undermine the mayor's "accountability" for the school system. See report from The Observer here including text of the letter.

The question of accountability is especially critical in the 65th Assembly District where overcrowded schools are struggling to cope with increased enrollments fed by rampant over-development. In the district's elementary schools, 4th and 5th grades consistently have 30 or more children in each class. PS 290 now has 30 in second and third grade as well, and actually ranks worst of all elementary schools citywide for 2nd grade class size.

Faced with this overcrowding, the mayor's administration refuses to be held accountable for providing students with suitable space for learning. Chancellor Joel Klein told parents at the May 23rd Community School District 2 meeting he couldn't find space for schools in Manhattan. It seems the mayor's much-heralded plan for the future growth of the city, Plan NYC 2030, deliberately excluded any planning for the public school capacity needed to accommodate population growth. So Klein asked the audience to send him suggestions on good locations for schools.

There is, of course, much talk of "accountability" emanating from the Department of Education. But Tweed's definition of accountability is simply more testing. The Office of Accountability announced last week that all children starting in 3rd grade will have five additional tests on top of existing high stakes tests in math and English. Click here for more on that kind of "accountability".

UPDATE: The Camp campaign responds to our inquiry: No, Mr. Camp's children "are not public school students".

UPDATE 2: See new post with election results


NYC Educator said...

"Accountability" certainly does not apply to mayoral control, and if I recall correctly, Governor Spitzer has already sworn to support it. It's simply unconscionable that they don't include plans for public schools--but many, many people would just as soon eliminate them altogether, and are perfectly willing to do so incrementally.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Yes, charter schools have smaller classes and enrichment programs -- the very things being denied and cut from public schools. If the objective is to grow charter schools than it helps greatly to neglect public schools.

NYC Educator said...

It's a win-win for them. They've been neglecting public schools for over thirty years, but it's no prob since they can always blame the teachers.