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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Please help! we are trapped in a system called Mayoral control

On Monday the City Council held hearings on Mayoral control; most of those who testified said that the current system was not working -- that the administration wields dictatorial powers with no checks and balances, exhibits an overwhelmingly arrogant and dismissive attitude towards parents and other stakeholders, and repeatedly introduces misconceived and badly executed policies.

Several speakers suggested that the Department of Education should at least be subject to city law, as are other city agencies. This would also allow the City Council to overturn the worst and most abusive policies. Others spoke of the need to reinvigorate district control and strengthen the authority of District Community Education Councils.

Much of the testimony was incisive.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer argued that the Panel on Educational Policy, now basically a rubber stamp for the administration, should be reformed to ensure more independence and actual input into policies; in his oral comments, he also pointed that
he had never seen a bureaucracy that so enjoyed ignoring and refusing to meet with elected officials and parents. Other city agencies respond -- but not the DOE.

George Sweeting of the Independent Budget Office pointed out that the DOE routinely evades the sort of financial transparency required of all other agencies, making their job of providing adequate oversight nearly impossible -- and that Tweed's lack of disclosure had worsened over the last year. He also pointed out that rather than breaking down its budget by program as do other city agencies, "under the DOE’s current approach, a single unit of appropriation covers all of the $6.2 billion budgeted for general education purposes in the city’s schools."

Many parents expressed their frustration with the powerless they felt under the current system -- and stated that the unchecked imperial powers implicit in the current incarnation of Mayoral control is contrary to our entire system of government. As quoted on WNYC radio, retired teacher and gadfly Norm Scott pointed out that no one in power at Tweed has any experience in education:

What would you think if Bloomberg suddenly called me up and said, "Hey Norm, I know you never dealt with money, but I'd like you to manage my hedge fund." This is basically what people are doing by turning the systems over to people who have never worked in the system."

See also testimony from Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, and a powerpoint from Chancellor Klein.

Susan Shiroma, president of the Citywide Council on High Schools, Lisa Donlan, president of Community Education Council in District 1, and Josh Karan, CEC member in District 6.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, Diane Ravitch, educational historian, Randi Weingarten, President of the UFT and David Bloomfield of Brooklyn College and the CCHS.

Eugenia Simmons-Taylor, parent leader from Manhattan, David Quintana and Elizabeth Crowley, parent leaders from Queens, and Dorothy Giglio, parent leader from Brooklyn.

Ann Kjellberg, D2 parent and Political Action Committee, Dave Palmer of NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, and Cecilia Blewer of ICOPE.

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