Sunday, February 3, 2013

Two new proposals to revamp mayoral control; about time!

State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery on  steps of City Hall today
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn and Assemblymember David Weprin of Queens announced today they would introduce a new bill that would end mayoral control, by taking away his supermajority on the Board of Education, now called the Panel for Educational Policy.

The Board (or Panel) would continue to have 13 members:  five appointed by the borough presidents, all public school parents, as now; and four appointed by the mayor, one a public school parent.  Four members would also be appointed by the City Council: One a representative of a college or university; one a member of a parent's organization; one a member of a Parent's Educational Council [CEC?]; and one at large. 
The Chancellor would be appointed by the Board rather than the mayor.  
Expect howls of protest by the tabloids tomorrow, saying this is a teacher union plot but nothing could be further from the truth.  The outrage and frustration among parents has never been more intense, resulting from the mayor's brutal steamrolling of his policies, sticking it in our faces , and continually implementing policies that damage our kids and our schools.   As Mike Reilly of CEC 31 put it today, "Instead of parental engagement we have parental estrangement."
Just two examples:  every year parents say their top priority on the DOE's own survey is smaller classes;  yet every year class size increases, and the mayor has the nerve to say he would double class sizes if he could.  Meanwhile, corrupt multi-million dollar contracts are renewed and rubber-stamped by the PEP for companies that are either under investigation for having stolen from DOE  or have been proven already to have overcharged DOE in the past. The latest outrage is Bloomberg's rejection of the teacher evaluation deal which will cost our schools $250 million, because he wouldn't allow for a two year sunset. 
Speaking eloquently and passionately in support of the bill were Mona Davids of the NYC Parents Union, CMs Robert Jackson and Jumaane Williams, Santos Crespo head of Local 372/DC 37, Carmen Alvarez and Emil  Pietromonaco of the UFT, and Sam Pirozzolo, President of the Community Education Council 31 in Staten Island. The consensus among the legislators, parents and union officials is that we cannot wait until mayoral control sunsets in 2015; the devastation to our children and our schools is too great; and we need to make this an issue in the upcoming mayoral election as well.
Meanwhile, last week, City Comptroller John Liu, a mayoral candidate, came up with a different proposal to reform the PEP.  According to his proposal, a nominating committee made of stakeholder groups will select two or three candidates for each seat on the PEP  after going through a transparent public process.  The mayor would then appoint from the list of candidates chosen by the committee.  The members would serve fixed and staggered four year terms, and once appointed, they could not be removed without due cause, rather than fired by the mayor at will any time he or she pleases, as Bloomberg has done in he past.  The PEP members would have staff support and compensation as well, allowing the entire operation to be more professionally run.  And though the Mayor would continue to appoint the Chancellor, the Chancellor would have to be an educator and the PEP would have to approve his or her selection.
I think that most parents would agree that either of these proposals, though not a complete fix of the governance problem, would be a significant improvement over the absurdly dictatorial system we have now.  On our NYC education list serv, Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan member of the PEP (whom at the press conference today Robert Jackson called the "ideal member" for his independence and sharp questioning of DOE officials) wrote  that "best and most appropriate choice" would be  an elected board." And:
I don't see any justification for denying urban parents this avenue of participation while allowing it for everyone else. Are we somehow less competent to oversee educational policy and budgets?  Short of that Liu's proposal for fixed terms is good.

I don't see a lot of benefit to switching around which electeds make appointments.  I've been fortunate to have been appointed by Scott Stringer but I think many electeds would be swayed by influence of big money especially those interests who don't send their own children to public school but have a lot to say about how our children are educated.
It is true that many of the other borough appointees have been constrained in voting their conscience, and have gone along with the mayoral majority because their patrons, the borough presidents, have too often been manipulated and controlled by Bloomberg's power and money; except that is, Manhattan Borough President Stringer and the Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr.  Yet while an elected school board for NYC would be ideal, it seems very far off and too often, elections are themselves often "swayed by the influence of big money."
Anyway, I think it is our job as parents to support any and all efforts to limit the destructive one-man rule , and demand that the mayoral candidates let us know what their positions are on this issue and whether they would support more checks and balances in the system.  What do you think?  Please leave your comments below.


Anonymous said...

About time as the illegal third term has seen an acceleration of school closings rather than any attempt to support schools. The mayor and his chancellors have embarked upon a course with the sole purpose of destroying public schools and promoting for profit charters. All the while ignoring the pleas of community and parents activists the bloodline of public schools throughout the citys history. This Bill neede to become law before the next mayor is appointed, as several of the candidates have stated that they would continue many of the destructive policies of the Bloomberg administration.

Rick Mangone

black left unity network said...

Go to to see the pitfalls of any variation/tweaking of a mayor-dominated school system as opposed to a people-centered, democratic, antiracist human rights based education system and curriculum.

Unfortunately, what is being offered by these two politicos is not about actually ending mayoral control/dictatorship. It's all about trying to add a symbolic veneer to a 1% dominated power structure that defines the bleak destiny of the children of the 99%.

wwoodruff said...

I hope that in part of the debate on Mayoral control there is a close look at the mayor's move to separate employees from the DOE it's self. We need to return to a central hiring system where principals can hire teachers based on their merits as educators and not on the cost of that teacher to their budget. Principals need to be in charge of educating children, not simply making the books balance. We need a return to principals being principal instructional supervisors not just paper pushers and number crunchers.

Unknown said...

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