Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mayoral Control Expiration -- What it Really Means

The state law dictating the governance of NYC schools expires on June 30th.  In the State Senate, Republicans and a rogue gang of Democrats calling themselves the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) are refusing to consider renewal until the Assembly agrees to create more charter schools in NYC.  In the political battle over privatization of our public schools, some have claimed the expiration of mayoral control will be catastrophic and put our kids at risk.

Ignore the fear mongering coming from many quarters, especially the mayor, on what the expiration of mayoral control means.

Here's what it really means:

Fewer mayoral appointees on central board

The central school board will go from thirteen members to seven.  This board was labeled "The Panel for Educational Policy" by Mike Bloomberg instead of "the Board of Education" but it's the same entity in the law, "the city board".  Each borough president will continue to appoint one member.  What changes is the mayor now gets only two appointees instead of eight.

In the current system the mayor selects the chancellor.  When the law reverts, the board has this power.  We already have a chancellor so the new board will likely just reaffirm her position.  There are few decisions made in the summer.  The big stuff happen later -- budgets are considered in the spring. The board will have to meet to approve contracts.

True, the new board composition allows less influence for the mayor and more for the borough presidents but keep in mind our current borough presidents -- Gale Brewer, Ruben Diaz Jr, James Oddo, Eric Adams and Melinda Katz -- are probably the most serious and level-headed set the city has ever seen.   In other words, there will be no chaos.

Less corruption

Proponents of mayoral control are warning of a dramatic increase in corruption.  What they ignore is the large scale corruption that has transpired under mayoral control.  The concentration of power in the mayor's appointees and corresponding decline in scrutiny of contracting has permitted corruption scandals far exceeding anything seen in "the bad old days".   For example, here's a trio of multi-million dollar scandals:  Future Technology Associates, Custom Computer Specialists and Champion Learning.  The balanced board will promote tighter scrutiny of spending and likely produce a reduction in this type of large-scale fraud.

Local school board elections

At some point the local school boards in each of the city's 32 districts will need to be elected.  Greater representation and agency for the members of the communities that rely on public education can only make it better, not worse.

The mayor should stop trying to sow fear amongst public school parents and students.   He should back the Assembly leadership that's willing to let the law expire rather than knuckle under to demands to hand over the people's schools to the privately controlled boards of the charter world.

- Patrick Sullivan
Manhattan Member NYC Board of Education (Panel for Educational Policy) 2007-2013

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