Thursday, June 22, 2017

Josh Karan: an opportunity to revise Mayoral control and what should happen next

Guest blog by Josh Karan below.  Though I'm not as optimistic that parents will have any say in what happens if and when mayoral control lapses, the Parent Commission which was a part of in 2008 did have a rigorous analysis of what was wrong with mayoral control and how to improve upon it. We invited any parent or parent advocate to be part of our group, held panel discussions with experts on school governance and critical education issues, and deliberated for an entire year before coming up with our consensus recommendations. For those who would like to see what we proposed, you can check out our full report here. -- Leonie

We have an unexpected opportunity to influence how NYC schools are governed, which could make them more engaging of and accountable to communities. 

Since 2002 the granting of control of the schools to the Mayor by the NY State legislature has required periodic re-authorization.  Presently such granting of power expires July 1, and there has been a deadlock between various factions as to the terms for its reauthorization.

Therefore, according to staff of one NY State Senator, the NYS legislature will be convening a Special Session after July 4 to address the issue of NYC school governance. 

This has panicked proponents of Mayoral Control, including the di Blasio administration, and many others, who view Mayoral Control as responsible for great improvements in educational outcomes.  They are seeking a multi-year, re-authorization, while Republicans and some Democrats, want to link re-authorization to an expansion of Charter schools, and an audit of how the school system has been spending its money.  

Proponents of Mayoral Control have argued that the alternative would be a return to what they assert were corrupt, unrepresentative, local Community School Boards.  

This impasse allows some opportunity to affect the debate, perhaps resulting in the Special Session granting only a short-term re-authorization, while we work to re-invigorate the discussion about the role of parents and communities in the formulation of the structure of decision making for public education, as well as its goals. 

The context can be proposals that a group of us, calling ourselves The Parent Commission, compiled in 2008, when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg first desired renewal of his control over NYC schools. 

At that time, over many months, a group of 15-30 parent activists discussed various proposals for democratic governance of NYC schools, and the mission that should underlie the school system. It issued a series of recommendations which again are pertinent. 

They can be viewed at:

Not everyone on the Commission agreed with every proposal, but we came to a consensus, which we offered as the basis for discussion about how our schools should function.  

These proposals are again timely.  They offer an alternative to the binary positing of opposites, whereby the only alternatives are seen as either authoritarian Mayoral Control or the old corrupt Community School Boards.  We believed that pretending there were only two possibilities reflected a failure of imagination in the public discourse, and its capture by those with a point of view about public education that would not well serve the majority of its students. 

Anyone wanting to be involved in talking to legislators about this, please contact me:


A summary of the Parent Commission proposals:

A)  Central Governance Structure 

We recommend a governance system distinguished by an educational partnership that includes the Mayor, a Board of Education whose members will strive toward cohesion and consensus, and new independent oversight agencies to verify financial and academic outcomes, investigate corruption, and respond to parental complaints.

B) Restoration of Community School Districts as meaningful entities

— whereby CEC’s have an important role in choosing the District Superintendent, who in consultation with the CEC and District Presidents Councils, and Community Board will help develop the annual capital plan, the district’s class size reduction plan, the Contract for Excellence spending, and the District Comprehensive Education plan, and whereby CEC’s have the full authority under the law to approve school siting, selection, restructuring, expansion, and reconfiguration of schools, as well as the closing, opening and relocating of all traditional public and charter schools in their districts.

C) Establish an Education Constitution to Proclaim the Mission of the NYC School System to provide the vision and mandates necessary to provide all our city’s children with a truly comprehensive, public and democratic education

Recognize that more than governance must be addressed, because through a variety of governance structures and chancellors over the last 40 years, little has changed for the majority of students, who are primarily low-income children of color.  The Parent Commission sought an explicit and legally binding statement of what education is intended to accomplish, to be embodied in a Constitution for the New York City Public School System that would codify in law a shared mission with core principles, primary goals, and a policy framework that must be respected and upheld by whomever is governing the system. Only in this way can our public servants be held to account for the money, resources, programs and staff needed to provide educational excellence for all.  Some mandates might involve resources for facilities and support staff and class size requirements, while others might involve educational philosophy regarding the use of multiple forms of assessment; the necessity of valuing diversity of ethnicity, race, and class; as well as the educational importance of racial and economic integration of schools. 

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