Mayoral Control 2.0: A Hand Across the Aisle, Grasped, Stroked, Slapped, Bitten or Ignored? Will the “Players” or the “Public” Prevail?



The Brennan Center at NYU, in a 2006 Report  found,
 that rank and file members of the state legislature, as well as the public, are left out of the legislative process leaving all New Yorkers underserved.
The debate, and it is a debate, over New York City school governance, aka mayoral control, has redeemed the legislative process.
Parent groups, advocacy organizations, the unions, both supervisors and teachers, and a host of legislators have issued reports or introduced legislation. While both legislative leaders have publicly supported retaining mayoral control, with some “tweaks,” members have been much more aggressive, calling for far more dramatic changes.
The Post and the Daily News have been strongly supportive of keeping mayoral control in its current form. In the Post lines between “reporting” and “editorial” are blurred as the newspaper carries article after article flaying  Bloomberg opponents.
The UFT, the teacher union, spent eighteen months drafting a position. They held hearings in all boroughs and over 1200 teachers, parents and advocates attended and/or testified at the meetings. After month upon month (I know, I served on the Task Force) of discussions the seventy five or so Task Force members completed their work. The Task Force contained members from the range of caucuses within the union, and, while the Report was not unanimous on all points, much of the Report was fully agreed upon. The major bone of contention was the role and formation of the Public Education Panel (PEP), fka, the Central Board. The UFT Report  called for a policy rather than an advisory board, with a majority of the board not appointed by the mayor.
It was surprising when Randi Weingarten, the UFT President backed off from the union plan and suggested a board with a majority appointed by the mayor. 

As many New Yorkers know, we think the model can be improved, based upon what we have learned in the last seven years, by creating more checks and balances. Think of it as Mayoral Control 2.0.

We have thought that a good way to do this would be to reduce the number of mayoral appointees on the 13-member Panel for Education Policy, which must approve policy changes, from eight to five. The mayor would no longer control a majority of members, but others with a stake in the system would be empowered. We have backed such a change in the law.

But because Mayor Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and others (including The Post) have disagreed, why not consider other possibilities that maintain the mayoral majority on the PEP but similarly provide for greater public input, broader discussion and more checks and balances on the mayor’s prerogatives?

* Require the panel to hold hearings on the school system’s expense and capital budgets …..

* Have policy proposals made in public in advance of panel meetings, complete with a list of pros and cons about the issues being voted on ….

* Structure meetings to allow for more public discussion and have them broadcast and archived online ….

* The Legislature could bolster the law to strengthen school-leadership teams, district-leadership teams and community-education councils ….

Superintendents, who for a long time served as an important link between their communities and the central Department of Education, should also be re-empowered….

To improve confidence in student-achievement data and increase transparency over spending, the Legislature could require broader access to the numbers — and perhaps even an independent analysis …..

Finally, lawmakers should strengthen oversight and enforcement mechanisms. One shouldn’t have to go to court or hold a protest to get the school system to do the right thing.

The Post applauds Randi, but has not backed off their position: hizzoner should have total and complete control.

It may be too late for the Mayor and Randi to carve out a plan.

The legislature, especially the legislators of color, support substantial changes. On Tuesday, as reported by Gotham Schools mayoral control will be a topic of discussion at “the conference,” the Democratic caucus. Before the Assembly goes into session the dems meet in a closed, party caucus. Members can speak their minds in a session at which no notes are taken and, traditionally, members are quite outspoken.

Last year the Mayor and Speaker Silver supported congestion pricing, but, the members from the “outer” boroughs, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester strongly opposed in conference, and Silver never brought congestion pricing up for a vote.

On the Senate side leader Malcolm Smith says he may need Republican votes to pass a bill retaining the status quo, Smith’s members are livid.

Will the Assembly members prevail on Tuesday? Will Silver, the sage leader of the Assembly support his members?

Both Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg have denigrated legislators in their tenures at Tweed and City Hall … they may have forgotten wise words of the Buddy Cianci, the former Mayor of Providence,

Remember, the hand you bite today may be attached to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.



One response to “Mayoral Control 2.0: A Hand Across the Aisle, Grasped, Stroked, Slapped, Bitten or Ignored? Will the “Players” or the “Public” Prevail?

  1. Pingback: Remainders: Novel ideas about school siting, from a teacher | GothamSchools

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