Friday, May 4, 2007

A Closer Look at the Bloomberg Record

In this week's Weekly Standard, Michael Goodwin, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist and Fred Siegel, professor of history and Cooper Union, take a scathing look at Michael Bloomberg's record of accomplishment as mayor. Bloomberg has long enjoyed favorable press coverage from the NY Times but with more rumors of his presidential run, expect some long overdue scrutiny from the national press.

Click here for the full article. An excerpt covering Bloomberg's education record follows:

"Manager Mike," the first mayor to also be the city's wealthiest man, put education at the center of his 2001 run for mayor. Beginning with his first campaign speech, he pledged "to do for education what Giuliani did for public safety." He invited people to judge him on the issue and said he wanted to be the "education mayor." Based in part on that promise of accountability, Bloomberg was given unprecedented mayoral control of the schools, which had been in the hands of a fractious and unaccountable Board of Education.

He has done a marvelous job of selling himself as a model school reformer to the New York press, to the New York elites, and to mayors across the country. Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., have spoken of Bloomberg as their model, "the standard-bearer for educational reform."

But the "reformed" school system led by Bloomberg's chancellor, Joel Klein, a former high-ranking Justice Department lawyer, has been more notable for administrative upheaval and noncompetitive contracts than higher test scores. Over the last five years--despite $4 billion in additional spending (the annual operating budget for education is now more than $16 billion and the city has a five-year, $10 billion education capital budget) and three harrowing reorganizations of the original "reform"--student performance has been basically flat. Reading scores in many elementary schools are up, but math scores in middle schools have declined. Graduation rates have inched up, but still barely 50 percent graduate in four years.

Bloomberg and Klein have lurched from their initial strong central control of the schools to a recent attempt at decentralization, both of which have sown confusion. Things began badly when they instituted a "progressive" education curriculum that had failed everywhere it was tried. More recently there has been a school bus fiasco: Roughly 7,000 students were left stranded in the dead of winter when a new routing plan imposed by an expensive consulting firm with a no-bid contract proved unworkable. Blasted by parents and critics, Bloomberg denounced them as know-nothings "who have no experience in doing anything." The parents, he snapped, just need to call 311, the all-purpose gripe-and-information line he established.

No comments: