Monday, March 30, 2009

What People Are Saying…

About Mayoral Control

“The president of the pro-business Partnership for New York City …. acknowledged that parents are frustrated and want more of a role in the school system…..A group called the Parent Commission …. said the law should be changed so the mayor can't have ultimate power over school policies.” ----WNYC radio, March 20, 2009

“[Comptroller] Thompson also echoed critics of mayoral control in calling for more channels for parental participation, an independent body to audit data and more power for local education councils. “The current administration has sought to avoid debate and public scrutiny,” Mr. Thompson said, “while fundamental decisions regarding education reform have been made by executives with very little education background.”

As the day progressed, city officials sparred with lawmakers over test scores, class size, test preparation and no-bid contracts. Parents booed, hissed and applauded, flashing signs and passing out pamphlets… Laura Acosta, an organizer for Learn NY ... said that every parent she had spoken with agreed that parents should have more of a voice in education decisions.” –NY Times, March 21, 2009

“Hundreds of parents and community leaders turned out for the last state Assembly hearing about mayoral control over city schools. …Patricia Connelly, of a group called the Parent Commission, told lawmakers the Department of Education routinely makes decisions about opening and closing schools without community involvement. CONNELLY: The parent commission rejects the condescending autocracy that currently masquerades as parent engagement. …: Connelly's group called for a partnership with the mayor, by diluting his power over an existing panel on education policy.”- WNYC radio, March 21, 2009

“The strong thrust of Friday’s hearing, the last of five that have taken Assembly members on a tour through the boroughs, was that lawmakers are not happy with the system they created. Some have become even less happy during the hearings in every borough over the last few months… Lawmakers repeatedly raised concerns that charter schools are causing a “two-tiered system” where some students get excellent educations while others languish in failing schools.” – Gotham Schools, March 23, 2009

About recent poll results

“Chancellor Klein’s approval rating continues to fall – 7 points in the last month alone. And even though he often claims to be a civil rights hero, his disapproval ratings are highest among blacks and Hispanics.” – NYC Public School parents, March 24, 2009

“One person who is not particularly popular, though, is Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, who is Mr. Bloomberg’s point man on the issue of mayoral control of the schools. Voters approve his job performance by 37 percent to 35 percent, but that figure has slipped several percentage points over the last few months.” – NY Times City Room, March 24, 2009

“Approval for how Mayor Bloomberg is handling the public schools has also dropped, to 47 percent from 50 percent a month ago, giving him the lowest approval rating on his education efforts since May 2003. Just 46 percent of New Yorkers said they thought the mayor’s takeover of the public schools has been a success. Public school parents rated the mayor the worst: Just 41 percent of them said they approved of the job he’s doing, and 54 percent said they disapproved.” – Gotham Schools, March 24, 2009

“When voters were asked if the mayor should share power over the schools with the City Council… 53 percent support joint authority, and 37 percent don't...”-New York Post, March 25, 2009

About DOE spending practices

“A cost-cutting plan to close city day-care center classrooms will actually cost taxpayers almost $7 million, according to insiders and a Daily News analysis…. insiders say the average cost to the city for each kindergartner in public school is about $4,000. Tack on $2,800 apiece for after-school care, and the tab for 3,200 kids comes to $21.7 million. …

Evelyn Segura's 4-year-old daughter Ashley Nicole Triz will have to leave the Williamsbridge NAACP day care in the Bronx to attend Public School 21, a school that buses its kindergartners to other schools because it is overcrowded. "My daughter is very happy where she is now," said Segura, 40. "With the economy today, I don't understand why this is happening." -- Daily News, March 26, 2009

City Councilman Bill DeBlasio released a report accusing the education department of wasteful spending, especially on testing.... DEBLASIO: We're going far beyond the federal requirements and the basics and spending a lot more on additional testing and pre-testing that we don't need in the middle of a fiscal crisis…. DeBlasio singled out an $80 million computer network for tracking data, and more than $20 million a year in benchmark testing. He also complained about the department's $1.3 million communications budget.” .- WNYC radio, March 26, 2009

About 2,000 teaching jobs could be cut if the state denies the city its fair share of federal stimulus funding, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein warned Thursday….Teachers union chief Randi Weingarten railed against the suggestion that cutting teachers and school staff is a necessary evil. "We need to cut things that ... aren't core," she said. – Daily News, March 27, 2009

On Charter schools and the lack of community input on their siting

The biggest uproar has been sparked by DOE's aggressive policy of putting new charters in existing public schools without seeking parent approval. "It's the same in every neighborhood," said Monica Major, president of the Community Education Council in District 11 in the Bronx. "The DOE just tells you they're putting a new charter in your building and you have to force them to even have a conversation about it." ….

Public school parent leaders say they don't oppose charters. They just want the DOE to abide by state law and consider the views of the local Community Education Councils, the successors to the old community school districts, before making those decisions. "They continually create this atmosphere of animosity toward parents," Major said. That's why she joined the Parent Commission on School Governance, a volunteer group that just released a proposal to sharply curb mayoral control of the schools. -- Daily News, March 24, 2009

The United Federation of Teachers and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday charging that the city’s Department of Education violated state law by moving to replace traditional public schools with charter schools without proper consultation of neighborhood school boards….The lawsuit accuses the department of “utilizing its powers over school creation to alter attendance zones unilaterally without the consent or involvement of the people the community school serves,” and adds that it “continues to act by fiat.”…

Since the mayoral takeover, the local school boards have declined in influence, with zoning among their few remaining powers. “This is our last shred of authority,” noted Jennifer Freeman, a member of the education council that represents much of Harlem, and a plaintiff in the suit. – NY Times, March 25, 2009

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