By Lesli A. Maxwell | Education Week
Published Online: August 7, 2009 | Published in Print: August 12, 2009
August 7, 2009 -- After nearly two months of political wrangling, state senators in New York gave final approval last week to a measure that will keep Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in charge of New York City’s 1.1 million-student school system.
Mr. Bloomberg, whose seven-year authority over the district expired in June when an unrelated political dispute in the state Senate kept legislators from acting on a series of bills, struck a deal late last month with Democrats in the chamber to extend mayoral control for an additional six years.
In doing so, the mayor, an Independent, agreed to support four “chapter amendments” that the Democratic leadership demanded. The amendments, which were presented as separate bills, included one to boost parental involvement in the city’s public schools and another that would set up an advisory council to issue annual reports on the state of arts education.
“With the governance question resolved, we can now move full steam ahead with efforts to ensure that this school year is marked by more great progress,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement issued after the Aug. 6 vote in the Senate.
The mayor said extension of his authority “preserved a system of clear accountability for our schools that has produced clear and dramatic results for our students.”
The final vote in favor of continuing mayoral control was 47-8.
New Oversight Committee
Just before approving the mayor’s continued authority over the city’s schools, the Senate also passed a resolution to create a new oversight committee with subpoena powers—a move meant to mollify some Democrats who have been critical of Mr. Bloomberg’s near-unilateral control.
Which Mayor Bloomberg will it be?
"With the governance question resolved, we can now move full steam ahead with efforts to ensure that this school year is marked by more great progress."
"If parents don't like it, they can boo me at parades."
Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City
The legislature’s other house, the state Assembly, which had already approved an extension of mayoral control before the law expired on June 30, will now have to reconvene to consider the Senate’s additional bills related to the deal.
It was not yet clear last week when that might happen, or whether the Assembly would approve the additional provisions.
What is clear is that the mayor will keep his power to appoint the majority of members to the oversight board known as the Panel for Educational Policy, and that those members will not serve fixed terms, a change that some opponents of mayoral control had sought.
Mr. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, a mayoral appointee, will be subject to some new checks on what had been their broad authority to approve contracts and shut down schools.
Mayor Bloomberg first won control over the schools in 2002, but the state law enabling that governance structure was scheduled to sunset at the end of June. The New York Senate—mired for weeks in a partisan fight over which political party was in charge of the chamber—failed to act on renewing the measure before the deadline. Senate Democrats eventually prevailed in that internal dispute, clearing the way for the chamber to vote on mayoral control. ("N.Y.C. Mayor Keeping Firm Hold on Schools," July 15, 2009.)
But some Democratic leaders in the Senate bristled at the Assembly’s version of extending mayoral control—the version endorsed by Mr. Bloomberg—and set off weeks of sparring with the mayor.
When the two sides finally reached a compromise in late July, Mr. Bloomberg agreed to the creation of a $1.6 million training center for parents and students that will be operated by the City University of New York. The center will train parents in how to advocate better educational outcomes for their children.
One of the chief criticisms of Mayor Bloomberg’s governance of the school system has been that parents are often shut out of major policy decisions.
The agreement approved by the Senate also calls for forming an advisory committee to make recommendations on arts education—an area of the curriculum that critics argue has suffered under the leadership of Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein.
The city’s education department must also hold annual school safety meetings under the compromise.
Mayor Bloomberg, who is running for a third term this November after succeeding in getting the city’s term-limits law changed, had not expected the extension of his authority over the public schools to run into such a political buzz saw, despite persistent criticism from some parent groups and education scholars.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
PARENT GROUPS' REACTION
From The Parent Commission on School Governance and Mayoral Control
August 7, 2009 -- The Parent Commission on School Governance and Mayoral Control regrets the passage of the Silver/Padavan bill in the Senate, because even with the chapter amendments, we believe it will provide insufficient checks and balances to continued autocratic mayoral control and unwise educational policies. The bill also fails to provide adequate mechanisms to ensure that parents have a real voice in how our schools are run.
We commend those Senators who voted against the bill and who stood fast with parents and against the political pressures of the Mayor and his allies: Senators Adams, Diaz, Duane, Huntley, Carl Kruger, Montgomery, Parker, and Perkins. We would also like to give special thanks to Senators Huntley, Sampson, Montgomery, Adams, and Hassell-Thompson, co-sponsors of the Education Through Partnership Act in the Senate (S 5739), which would have created a new and improved governance system, based on full partnership between parents and elected officials.
There are important elements in the chapter amendments, especially those regarding the strengthening of the superintendents’ role and the new oversight Senate committee. We look forward to working with this new committee to expose the reality of the administration’s flawed policies, misuse of taxpayer funds, and chronic violations of both city and state law.
The Silver/Padavan bill also has some positive provisions that were included in our original proposals, including an independent auditing mechanism for the administration’s reporting of outcome data, and the requirement that all Community Education Councils reserve seats for parents of English language learners and students with individualized education plans, which we hope will help lead to better opportunities for our most underserved students.
Yet it does not make the Chancellor and his policies subject to city law, and it fails to change the composition of the Board of Education to ensure that it is more independent and/or more responsive to parental concerns. Community Education Councils, School Leadership Teams, and public school parents in all areas of the city will remain largely powerless, and we fear that their critical input and priorities will be largely ignored. The school system will continue to be solely in the hands of two men, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, who have no educational background and who have never sent their own children to a public school.
We would like to thank the many organizations throughout the city that endorsed our proposals. Many New York City parents work incredibly hard, without recognition or compensation, in the effort to improve the conditions in the city’s schools, even though they are seldom listened to by an administration that has shown disregard and even contempt for their views.
As parent leaders and individuals concerned with the future of education in this city, we remain committed to the goal of creating a system in which all New York City children will be provided with a quality education and a better chance to learn.
We look forward to working with the Legislature and with our other allies for continued improvements in the New York City public schools.
The Parent Commission including:
Vern Ballard, Community Board 9, Manhattan
Rob Bowen, Interrelated Assessments and Resolutions...Connecting the Dots
Patricia Connelly, parent, Districts 15 & 75; member, Citywide Council on Special Education, 2007-2009
Lisa Donlan, President, Community Education Council District 1
Rosa Flores, public school parent
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters
Josh Karan, Community Education Council District 6, 2005 – 2009
Carla M. Phillip, public school parent
Charmaine Phillip, public school parent
Karen Phillip, public school parent
Monica Major, President, Community Education Council District 11
Warren Miner, Independent Commission on Public Education
Ellen Raider, Independent Commission on Public Education
Benita Rivera, Parent Commission on School Governance and Mayoral Control
Shino Tanikawa, Community Education Council District 2
Organizations that endorsed the Parent Commission’s Recommendations on School Governance
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Class Size Matters
Community Board 1 Manhattan
Community Board 3 Manhattan
Community Board 9 Manhattan
Community Board 12 the Bronx
Community Board 12 Manhattan
Community Education Council District 1
Community Education Council District 2
Community Education Council District 6
Community Education Council District 11
Community Education Council District 17
Community Education Council District 20
Community Education Council District 22
District 1 Presidents Council
District 2 Presidents Council
Ethical Action Committee of Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture
Human Rights Project of Urban Justice Center
Independent Commission on Public Education
New York Coalition for Neighborhood School Control
Right to Read Project
Second Presbyterian Church (6 W. 96th St.)
Stuyvesant High School Parent Association
Time Out From Testing
3 R's Coalition