If you read the print media, the Post the Daily News, the Wall Street Journal you’d believe the mayoral election was going to be close – as the dust settled the Republican challenger to de Blasio received a scant 28% of the vote: Blasio cruised to an overwhelming victory. Check out the map of the city indicating geographic voting patterns, not surprisingly the white working class voters; Trump voters in the presidential, were also Republican voters in the mayoral.
An older Afro-American woman, smiling, “we elected our second black mayor.”
For twenty years the heavily Democratic city elected Republican mayors (Giuliani: 1993-2001, Bloomberg: 2001-2013), and, among Bloomberg’s first actions was to move to mayoral control of the public school system. Large cities: Boston, New York, Chicago became mayoral control and scholars generally praised the change from school boards with divided leaderships to a mayor.
The results of their examination indicate that, although mayoral control of schools may not be appropriate for every district, it can successfully emphasize accountability across the education system, providing more leverage for each school district to strengthen its educational infrastructure and improve student performance, “The Education Mayor,” Kenneth Wong and others, 2007.
The UFT, the teacher union in New York City, supported the change, negotiating with a single mayor who was fully responsible for the school system seemed far better then a school board appointed by borough presidents and thirty-two elected school boards. In contracts negotiated in 2005 and 2007 teachers received a very substantial 42% salary increase and the union was on board, sort of on board, for a number of the initiatives pushed by the mayor/chancellor.
The union-Bloomberg relationship waned over time and by his third term turned toxic and the public began to side with the union. Sol Stern, in the NY Daily News wrote,
… the public remains dissatisfied with Gotham’s schools. According to a poll of city voters commissioned by the Manhattan Institute, New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor: Almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28% who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.
In 2013 the newly elected Mayor de Blasio appointed a familiar face, a Department of Education lifer who was the superintendent in his home district. The new chancellor returned to a superintendent system and slowly began to dismantle the Bloomberg-Klein policies. Chancellor Farina was welcomed after three chancellors, who were not educators and required waivers from the state commissioner.
At a news conference the day after the recent election de Blasio declared,
“We need the school system to look entirely different in the coming years,” Mr. de Blasio said, citing proposals to expand free education to reach all 3-year-olds and to have all students reading at grade level by third grade. “That is the mission I will be most focused on, that will be the issue I put my greatest passion and energy into.”
In his first term the mayor has created two monumental programs, Universal Pre-K (UPK) and 3K-for-All. 70,000 students are currently enrolled in UPK and 3K for All has begun in two of the poorest districts and rolling out adding two districts each year.
Other de Blasio/Farina policies are more controversial and have been both lauded and criticized, the Renewal Schools initiative, attempts to restore the schools instead of closing the schools, shrinking and phasing out the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, made up of teachers bumped primarily from closing schools and the lack of curricula, all have been both lauded and widely criticized.
Eric Nadelstern, a deputy chancellor under the Bloomberg/Klein years is sharply critical of the school renewal program,
Failed schools never reinvent themselves. Period. There’s no data that says they do. The idea essentially is part of the age-old central office practice of rewarding failure and penalizing success. Oh, you’re not doing well? We’ll give you a lot of money. You are doing well, we’re not going to give you that. They’d do much better to reverse that and close those schools. You can’t ask the people who caused the failure in the first place to come up with a better idea.
Let’s get back to that post-election comment:
“We need the school system to look entirely different in the coming years,”
The mayor went on to announce a goal, “…to have all students reading at grade level by third grade,” which sounds a little like the description of the mythical city of Lake Woebegone were all children are above average.
What does the mayor mean by “look entirely different?” Is he hinting that the current chancellor is retiring? And, if she does, who will replace her?
In early October I speculated on the possible successors to the current chancellor: check out here.
Let’s remember, the day after the election Mayor de Blasio became a lame duck mayor, he is term limited and I’m sure is looking beyond New York City. Is he trying to make the city the model for education in other big cities across the nation?
In his first four years he added Universal Pre-K and began 3K for All, unique programs and pumped hundreds of millions into the renewal schools, the ninety or so lowest achieving schools, with, to be polite, only modest gains.
Will he continue his approach, adding targeted programs and basically avoiding any structural changes to the management system as well as avoiding any substantial changes to what happens at the school level: continue a good relationship with the unions, keep parents “happy,” and also keeping the critics at bay by throwing dollars at problems. For example, a student is killed, stabbed in a school in the Bronx, and, apparently the student was retaliating for bullying. The City Council holds a hearing and the chancellor throws seven million dollars at a number of anti-bullying initiatives.
Or, is the mayor going to “make the school system look entirely different?”
If he is there is a long, long line of reformers with ideas.
- Does New York City need a curriculum? For decades the former Board of Education maintained a curriculum section that produced curriculum across a board range of areas, the Bloomberg crowd folded up the section and the current leadership has not made a uniform curriculum a priority.
- Is the current “superintendent-lite” system, a superintendent with a very small staff the best way to manage schools?
- A number of states are piloting alternatives to standardized testing, the Board of Regents is discussing different approaches: Does New York City have any interest in exploring alternatives?
- Should a limited number of schools and/or school districts have more latitude in designing and implementing educational initiatives, perhaps a return to the autonomy zone concept?
I’m sure you could add to the list. I expect the mayor will roll out his second term plans as we move toward his inaugural.
De Blasio moved from one of fifty-one City Council members to citywide office,Public Advocate and went on to an upset victory in the September 2013 four-way Democratic primary. He has been a strategic candidate, a candidate who understood his voter base. There doesn’t appear to be a political path forward in New York City; then again, who ever predicted that a Councilman from Brownstone Brooklyn, outside the normal democratic party structure would emerge as mayor, and, manage the city so well. The city is thriving, violent crime at an historic low, yes, rents rising and a lack of affordable housing; on the other hand more New Yorker taxpayers able to pay the absurd rents and buy apartments commonly in the million dollar range thereby funding a wide range of projects. The mayor grapples with how do you maintain your high income tax payers and create more affordable housing?
I believe the mayor sees himself as the leader of the progressive wing of the national democratic party; able to unite the Bernie and Hillary wings and appeal to Afro-American voters.
Mayor de Blasio as the leader of the model city: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden,”