deBlasio’s Education Plate is Full: PreK, Contracts, Co-Location, Charters and Let’s Not Forget Running a School System.

de Blasio’s education plate runneth over…

Mayors, unlike presidents and governors, don’t have a Congress or a legislature to win over. In New York City the City Council has limited authority, they can “make trouble,” i. e., hold hearings and trash city officials, however the mayor runs the city. deB assured he would have a friend at the council by craftily managing the campaign for speaker. Melissa Mark-Viverito is more than an ally, she is a philosophical partner.

Tonight in Washington President Obama will spend an hour or so laying out his plans for the next year, probably broad strokes with a few specific program initiatives, immediately afterwards the Republicans will trash his ideas, the “official” response and the responses from the 2016 candidates – Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The president’s agenda is held hostages to the guys/gals across the aisle, and, world events over which he has no influence: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Central Africa, and the Ukraine, any of which could explode into a cataclysmic event.

A little simpler in Albany, although the governor requires both houses of the legislature to buy into his spending – tax-cutting agenda, he has been extraordinarily successful in fending off political adversaries.

In City Hall it is the mayor, and the mayor alone, who sets the stage, and, education at the center.

Whoever thought that 4-year olds would dominate the airways and cyber world? The mayor needs Albany to approve a millionaire tax to fund Universal PreK (UPK -all day in all schools) and the governor’s budget does not address a tax increase, it pays for some of the costs, for one year. Under New York State law local tax increases require local approval plus inclusion in the state budget; the headline writers are pumping up a deB v.Cuomo battle over UPK. The state budget will be resolved shortly before the April 1 deadline with intense down to the wire negotiations. The UPK plan, whether the deB plan or the Cuomo plan or some combination is enormously complex, with many, many moving parts – will deB avert an Affordable Care Act meltdown?

The absence of labor contracts for 300,000 city employees – contracts that expired three and four years ago potentially will eat up projected city surpluses and could embed deficits down the road. The unions want full back pay as well as a substantial raise, the mayor, correctly silent, acknowledges the gravity of the problem. Union members have high expectations, and in spite the universal labor support deB will push for “productivity savings,” creative ways to both satisfy unions and reduce costs going forward – with a ticking clock. If no contracts are approved by the end of the school year tempers will fray with more and more references to David Dinkins one-term mayoralty. Would teachers be willing to “trade” dollars for better working conditions? The answer: it depends.

The mayor clearly has a problem with the co-location of charter schools in public school buildings. In the waning days of the Bloomberg years the central board, the Panel for Educational Priorities, PEP, approved many co-locations (see list here). Will deB and Farina reverse the decisions? If they do Eva, the NY Post and the Manhattan Institute will compare deB to Iosif Dzhugashvili and reserve a place for him in the Nineth Circle.

The clumsy, overly complex principal-teacher evaluation plan is part of the upcoming union negotiations, and, an opportunity to simplify the plan, whatever is negotiated requires the approval of Commissioner King.

To date the mayor has been impressive before the public, shoveling snow off his walkway, admitting he could have done better in the recent snow storm, testifying in Albany, he has a firm grasp of the issues, deftly avoids pitfalls and stays on message. New Yorkers, the vast percent of whom voted for him, are getting to know him.

I worked with a principal who, in my judgment was an effective leader. He walked the halls a period or two every day, greeting kids, ducking into classrooms and asking kids a question or two, shooting a few hoops in the gymnasium, explain to teachers why their lesson or their behavior was lacking, writing nice notes of commendation, and an occasional counseling memo memorializing unacceptable conduct. And, of course, he had an open door, he was accessible to all. He was a leader.

deB seems to be in the same mold. You could probably argue with him over whether the Knicks would be better if Melo had more assists, or not, and, he’d have an opinion. Bloomberg would, of course, be cluesless.

Will we feel the same way next fall? Or, will the early days of seduction and allure be soured?

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One response to “deBlasio’s Education Plate is Full: PreK, Contracts, Co-Location, Charters and Let’s Not Forget Running a School System.

  1. Despite all the media comment to the contrary, the city school system has a really full roster of very competent people. They do run the schools, and thousands of people graduate each year and have done so for more than a century. That may not be an interesting or politically sexy statement; but it is the truth. DeBlasio can rest assured that that will continue . Ms. Farina is a product of, and a great champion of that system!
    As to wasting money; there are the charters.. step one is that they will have to pay their way- like any tenant, no matter how welcome, there should be no free ride! It is absurd that the city pays for the space utilized by a private entity! How do we have situations where city school children have to go in the ‘back door’ or be deprived of access to recreation areas because of non-rent paying charters? Farina should investigate this immediately.
    The creation of dozens and dozens of new schools has not improved the ratio of students to teachers or classroom size; rather it has increased the number of managers and their much larger salaries! Something to think about. In addition the utilization of large schools by half a dozen small schools has decreased the number of extracurricular activities, available to students, special programming like music, band, sports, and derailed the use of the schools for community based after school activities. When does increasing the number of providers decrease services and increase cost? Something else to think about. Mr. DeBlasio and Ms. Farina will do a great deal for our schools. They believe in public education and they are not trying to prove that there is something wrong with teachers, students, parents, schools, etc.

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