Thursday, December 7, 2023

Mayoral control in the eyes of three NYC parent leaders

The NY State Education Department is holding hearings on Mayoral control, leading up to a report they will submit to the Legislature at the end of March.  The Legislature then has to decide whether to renew Mayoral control, let it lapse or amend it by end of June 2024.  More and more of the few school districts who have Mayoral control, including Chicago, are moving away from it in the realization that it leaves out community voices and contributes to rampant privatization, including charter school expansion.

At the hearings in the Bronx on Tuesday night, parents and teachers who spoke were nearly unanimous that Mayoral control is a deeply flawed system that must be changed.  You can see news clips about the hearings here, and video of the proceedings at the bottom of this page, which also has information about future hearings in December and January, including a link to sign up for the next hearing in Queens on December 18.  

Several of those who testified on Tuesday mentioned the Mayor's failure to lower class size according to the new state law as evidence of the lack of accountability under the system, despite claims by him and the Chancellor that this essentially autocratic system somehow strengthens accountability.  

This question of accountability and Mayoral control was also discussed by two parent leaders, Shino Tanikawa and Jonathan Greenberg, on the latest episode of Talk out of School, which aired on  Sunday on WBAI and is also available as a podcast here and above.  Please listen and subscribe!

Below is the testimony given by Thomas Sheppard, one of the independent members of the Panel for Educational Policy, elected by parent leaders in the Bronx, and thus doesn't automatically vote "yes" for every proposal on the PEP agenda. Currently, the PEP, which was named that by Michael Bloomberg when he got Mayoral control but is still legally the NYC school board, has ten independent members and thirteen members appointed by the Mayor, who uniformly rubber stamp whatever proposal is put before them, usually without any explanation or comment no matter how wasteful or misguided.


Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony and share my perspective on the issue of Mayoral Control. My name is Thomas Sheppard and first, I am a father of six children, three of whom are NYC Public School students. I also serve as the Bronx Community Education Council Presidents Member on the Board of Education for the City School District of the City of New York, also referred to as the Panel for Educational Policy or PEP. I was first elected in 2020 to serve as the representative of all 32 CEC Presidents and, with recent changes to NYS Education Law, re-elected to serve as the Bronx CEC Presidents Member for the 2023-24 School year.

I am here tonight in opposition to Mayoral Control of New York City Public Schools. Being a member of the PEP for the past 3 and a half years has shown me and the majority of parents in NYC that Mayoral Control simply does not work as a responsive form of Public School Governance. My experience has been that the PEP with a supermajority of Mayoral Appointees working in collusion with the Mayor and Chancellor, routinely ignores the voices of the community, the New York City Council, and even the New York State Legislature, and that the DOE’s bureaucracy often exploits procedures and the law in a way that disenfranchises the students, families, and school communities for which is it supposed to serve.

I can give many examples, but since I only have 3 minutes, I will briefly highlight 3, provide more details in my written testimony, and invite you to view recordings of years of PEP meetings at ( for more context.

The examples I will touch on are:

    1.    Every Mayor and Chancellor illegally overusing procedures like Emergency Declarations to circumvent community input on important matters such as the estimated budget.

    2.    The refusal of the Mayor & Chancellor to comply with the Class Size Reduction Law passed by the New York State Legislature last year, with no ability by the community to hold either of them accountable for that decision.

    3.    The Mayor’s supermajority on the PEP with no direct interaction with the community, routinely taking action in direct opposition to the positions of Education Councils and school communities, especially in matters such as significant changes in school utilization.

Finally, I wanted to make a distinction between Mayoral Control of NYC Public Schools and the system of governance itself. I am calling for an end to Mayoral Control in the short term, and a redesign of this system of school governance to one that is community-centered, democratic, responsive, and accountable to students and parents in the long-term. And while that work of redesign happens with all of our community stakeholders and elected officials, a transition from Mayoral Control must include at a minimum, eliminating the Mayor’s supermajority on the PEP, giving students voting representation, and giving the PEP and Education Councils the authority to hire and terminate the Chancellor and District Superintendents respectively.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you.


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