Whither Mayoral Control? Where Are the Adams, Hamiltons, Madisons? Can We Invent a School System That Works for Everyone?


Forty years ago, in May of 1968, the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Governing Board fired a group of white teachers. The Mayor was aloof and the Board of Education avoided any involvement. A two month strike resulted that only ended with the involvement of the NYS Commissioner of Education.
In the summer of 1975 the union was engaged in contract negotiations with the Board of Education when the City almost defaulted, it slashed the Board budget and the Chancellor, Irving Anker, a long time insider laid off over ten thousand teachers.
Today, a Mayor/Chancellor are, once again, trying to slash the Department of Ed budget.  The “Alphonse-Gaston” finger-pointing is no longer an issue. The “Keep the Promises” coalition is holding rallies and demonstrations on the steps of City Hall and at schools around the City.
These scenarios are particularly interesting as the legislature moves toward changes in the school governance law.
Many teachers cry for a return to non-mayoral control. They point to the current administration which is responsible to no one … to quote NYS Regent Meryl Tisch, they suffer from “arrogance.”
City Council President Christine Quinn wants a major role for the Council – no surprise. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum is slowly moving toward a position, as are the Supervisors’ and Teachers’ Unions.
How do we create a school governance system in which the mayor is accountable to other elected officials and the public at large without creating a system that is either fractured or accountable to no one?
In Los Angeles the Board of Education is elected in districts by city voters, and, selects the superintendent. The mayor has no statutory role, although, he supports candidates in the election.
Due to Proposition 13 schools in California are funded at levels well below those in New York State.
Mayoral control in Boston was quite successful, a longtime mayor and a long time superintendent have had a  highly productive relationship.
To whom is a Central Board of Education responsible?
Should they be selected by the Mayor? the City Council? Who selects the Chancellor? the Mayor? the Central Board? Collaboratively?
Where are the Adams, Hamiltons and the Madisons? Are any of our current politicians imbued with  the spirit of the founding fathers?
Ultimately the NYS Legislature and the Governor will have to agree upon the legislation. As the legislature moves toward adjournment it is clear that the governance law will be on next years agenda.
As those of us in the City are consumed with the fight over the budget, and, in the wings, governance, another huge issue edges onto the stage.
A NYS Commission on Property Tax Relief  has just issued a report that recommends capping school taxes. The passage of the proposition in California has had dire consequences for schools across the State.
These are perilous times for public education.

One response to “Whither Mayoral Control? Where Are the Adams, Hamiltons, Madisons? Can We Invent a School System That Works for Everyone?

  1. Hello,

    There is a producer from CNN doing a story on NCLB and its effects on teachers and students. She wants to interview (on camera) a NY teacher and a NY student who have left public school as a result of NCLB. If you know of either, could you put them in touch with me so I can put them in touch with her?

    Thanks for your help!


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