Phoenix Rising: Will School Governance, Once Again, Seize the Central Stage? If Not Bloomberg/Klein, What Should Replace It?


 There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years.
School governance plunged from the “hot” topic of the moment to obscurity; overwhelmed by the presidential election, a faltering economy, wars, Hillary’s replacement, the miraculous Hudson River plane crash and the inauguration.
Suddenly, the quiescent NYS Assembly Education Committee announces hearings in each of the boroughs beginning next week and continuing until March 20th.
From Betsy Gotbaum to Comptroller Thompson to Assembly Speaker Silver, they all support mayoral control, sort of a mayoral control lite … rather vague comments about finding a more inclusive role for parents.
This has not been a good week for Mike and Joel: after flaking for their pal Carolyn Kennedy, with endless “it’s in the bag” rumors, she withdraws.
The Internet is buzzing as parents and advocates and community and citywide organizations signup to testify before the committee.
If you’re an inquisitive type you can plunge into the State Ed Law and actually read the law …since the mayoral control law sunsets on 6/30/09 the law contains the current and the law that it would default to if it is allowed to expire. For most folk the biggest surprise is the law only sets a thin framework. Almost everything that Joel Klein has done is not in the law … Chancellors have, and always have had, sweeping powers as far as the organization of their school district.
School governance in New York City, as Diane Ravitch tells us, has always been dominated by the politics of the day. The post 1970 decentralization law, with a few exceptions, was characterized by local school boards that ranged from dismal at best to corrupt at  worst. The functioning school districts were the more middle class districts, the poorer the district, the greater the corruption.
Central boards, while not corrupt, were totally political: after all, the board members were appointed by borough presidents and the mayor.
The current iteration has simply substituted the politics of the Mayor and the Chancellor for the politics of the locality, and, they did it with disdain.
Do we continue with mayoral control, or return to the prior system that was dominated by politics and guaranteed weak chancellors?
What do we mean by increasing the role of parents and giving them a voice? If parents are appointed by elected officials will they represent the elected official or parents? In the poorest communities school parent organizations barely function, how can they be encouraged? and, what is their role? should parents be consulted or should they have a decision-making role in school policies?
The teacher union (UFT) has yet to announce a plan … a union Task Force has been meeting more than a year.
Is the Bloomberg/Klein mayoral governance plan adequate to “close the achievement gap” and establish a model for continuing improvement? Should accountability, whether merit/bonus or school closing based, be the core of any plan?
Why are we all so hostile toward Bloomberg/Klein governance? Is it the plan or the messengers?
Is there an arms length evaluation of the seven years of Bloomberg/Klein?
Is there any evidence that the “other ideas” will be more effective?
I have read, listened to angry, loud voices sharply critical of Bloomberg/Klein … I have heard relatively little about how to change it, except rather vague generalities.
I’m listening.

2 responses to “Phoenix Rising: Will School Governance, Once Again, Seize the Central Stage? If Not Bloomberg/Klein, What Should Replace It?

  1. Ed, you are correct here. There are way too many loud voices and you ask really important questions.

    To disclose, I am working with Learn NY and have posted a diary onThe Albany Project about the hearings asking folks to sign up and tell their stories.

    I found your post to be a welcome reasoned approach to asking questions about an issue that is going to be front and center soon enough.


  2. Pingback: Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Klein vs. the Schools

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