Monday, January 5, 2009

Post and News Editors Attack Shelly Silver Over Mayoral Control

The owners of the Daily News and NY Post, Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch respectively, are staunch supporters of Mike Bloomberg's reign here in NYC. So when State Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver commented on potential changes in the school governance law, it was no surprise that the papers clobbered him in their Saturday editorials. In a move clearly coordinated out of City Hall, the editors of the Daily News and Post make the same points on the same day.

The Post suggests that behind Silver's concern for public school parents looms some grave danger:
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, for example, told this newspaper in September that he favors mayoral control with "tweaks" to focus on helping "the parent who has a problem ... as it relates to their child." He said this week that he envisions changes to enhance parental input.

While his aides declined to elaborate on what he has in mind, his remarks are fraught with danger.
More fear mongering in the Daily News version:
But . . . what does Silver want?

That's the tricky part: His answer - he wants more input for parents, he told The Post's Carl Campanile this week - sounds a lot like the rhetoric of those seeking to gut mayoral control entirely.

And Silver, as usual, is short on details.
The News goes on to express concern over proposals to establish fixed length terms for the Panel for Educational Policy (Board of Ed) members. Mayor Bloomberg has previously fired members who threatened to disagree with him. Clearly the idea of making the PEP more than a rubber stamp has stoked serious fear in the administration.

Unfortunately, the sagacious editors of the Daily News couldn't figure out how to spell "predictable" in their editorial, spelling it "predicable" instead. If the mayor's friends will lecture us on how our schools should be managed while they privately school their kids, they ought to learn to spell, or at least how to find the spell-check button.

Despite the bad editing, the message certainly comes through. The Post and News have previously attacked pols who called for more school construction and an end to excessive standardized testing. We will hear more as the mayoral control law comes up for renewal this year. It's clear the Post and News are sharpening their knives for those who stand up for public school parents.


Mr. Dugong said...

I'm uncertain about the mayoral control of schools. I feel like parents have very inconsistent views on how their children should be educated.

To me, it's a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation where if you make some parents happy, you'll piss of a group of other parents. So I suppose in this sense, it's better to have uniform school policies by the mayor than have parents who genuinely don't know what's in their children's academic best interests have more control.

Not to say that you fine parents who contribute to this blog fall into that category.

Here's a fine example of mixed parent opinion. I directly observe in classrooms that students who have "Sidekicks" for cells phones are more inclined to be distracted in class and hence don't pay attention in class. But parents and students argue that they have a right to possessing a cell phone in the event of emergencies (keep in mind that I don't have the authority to confiscate phones from students - that requires school security agents). To be honest, phones that can send and receive text messages are a distraction no matter what you say as parents.

If you're going to sign a contract for a cell phone for your child, save the extra $5-10/month and decline the text messaging abilities!! Don't spend the extra money on a top of the line phone with Internet access and qwerty keyboards, just get a damn phone with stripped capabilities!

A city-wide ban on phones in schools is understandable, if you are in the classroom. As a parent, it's unreasonable. What's more important to you? Your child's attentiveness in class? Or the ability to call your child in the statistically unlikely chance that a catastrophic event will occur that involves the school?

That's only one example of a positive. However, I can see how mayoral control has screwed over schools though.

Anonymous said...


There are many worthy reasons why a child would need to have a cell phone. Many children commute long distances to and from school on public transportation, stay late after school for activities or travel to a job. It doesn't take the "catastrophic event" you cite for a child to be in danger and need to call for help. My children will carry cell phones when they commute to school regardless of what Mike Bloomberg says. I sometimes see him riding to work in a convoy of armor-plated SUVs. What could he possibly know of what real people face in their lives?

But the issues at stake go well beyond the cell phone ban. Here is what greater parent input would mean for our schools: force the mayor and chancellor to spend state funds for class size reduction as intended, cut hundreds of wasted millions from the ramp up in standardized testing, provide for greater safeguards over military recruiting, avoid the systematic bias against low income children introduced in Klein's gifted and talented testing, have a real plan to address middle school failures rather than more testing, require a capital plan for school construction based on actual need, etc...

Anonymous said...

As a classroom teacher I think the cell phone ban is a blessing. I can just imagine the management problems I would have if students could have cell phones. As a parent, I understand the importance of being able to reach your child during the day.

The issue with mayoral control, however, is more about the way the ban on cell phones occurred. There was no thoughtful consideration of any other point of view on the issue. This pattern of ignoring parents' and teachers' ideas and opinions is pervasive in our system. "Good" schools create an alliance of parents, teaches, and administrators. The mayor has got to go and mayoral control has got to go with him.

Mr. Dugong said...

Mr. Sullivan,

Do not mistake my citing the cell phone ban as supporting mayoral control or supporting the city-wide ban. I understand that students have obligations outside of school that require regular contact with employers and parents, however, it is again a PARENT ISSUE to keep high-tech distractions out of students hands to begin with (which is NOT uniformly followed or adhered to).

A phone, I can understand. A phone with a camera, qwerty keyboard, text messaging or instant messaging abilities, facebook access, and a built-in mp3 player is the problem (to me that indicates bad parenting). I have no objection to phones. I have plenty of objections to everything the phone comes with.

Also, the use of the statistically unlikely catistrophic event is the most frequent excuse I have encountered from parents to allow their FAILING students to keep their phones. There are a few other parents who offer more reasonable rationales but it still doesn't change the fact that their students end up distracted in the classroom.

Our school in particular gathers phones as students enter the building like checking your coat. So there's every expectation to get your phone back at the end of the day. But some students sneak them in and they're usually the ones who suffer for it.

I hope I clarified by position.

Patrick Sullivan said...


Thanks for clarifying. Cell phones have no place in the classroom and it sounds like your school has worked out a solution. My concern is with before and after school.