How Effective is Mayor Control in New York City? Has Mayoral Control Effectively Addressed Inequities and Overall Effectiveness?

New York City is a mayoral control city; the mayor appoints eight members of the fourteen members Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), each borough president appoints a member. The members may be removed at any time by the appointing auhtority, the  mayor or the borough presidents. The PEP technically hires a chancellor; actually the mayor hires the chancellor and sets education policy for the city. The current mayoral control law sunsets June 30, 2022; however, the NYS Assembly Education Committee has scheduled a series of hearings to assess the law. The announcement below:

 In 2019, the legislature extended the provisions of mayoral control for three years, until June 30, 2022, and included provisions to increase parental involvement on the Panel for Education Policy and Community District Education Council. This hearing will be the first in a series of hearings and other informational forums throughout the City of New York to assess the effectiveness of mayoral control of the New York City School District and hear from stakeholders on the ways to address the inequities in our schools and improve student performance. 

The purpose of this hearing is to comprehensively examine the overall effectiveness of mayoral control of the New York City School District and to identify issues pertaining to school governance in New York City. This will allow the Committee to focus subsequent hearings on specific topics in order to examine possible reforms to mayoral control.

The following is my testimony:

Hearing: Governance of the New York City School District

December 16, 2019

TO: Assembly Education Committee Chair Benedetto and Members

FROM: Peter Goodman

Ed in the Apple blog

The 14,000 school districts across the nation are governed by elected, lay school boards. In 1970 New York City moved to a decentralized school system – 32 quasi-independent elected school boards and a central board, one member selected by each borough president and two by the mayor.

In a few of the decentralized districts the system thrived, in too many the system was fraught with petty politics if not outright corruption.

In 2002 the newly elected mayor, Michael Bloomberg, with wide support, including the teacher union, asked the legislature to move to a mayoral control system. A 13-member central board (Panel for Education Policy); the PEP members serve at the whim of the mayor and borough presidents and can be discharged at any time.

The elected school boards were replaced by Community Education Councils made up of parent activists with little authority, aside from zoning.

Mayors have fired and replaced PEP members whose vote discomforted the mayor.

Some large cities have moved to mayoral control: Boston, Yonkers, Cleveland, Chicago, and others, for example Los Angeles has elected school boards. In the past year teacher strikes occurred in Chicago and Los Angeles, an elected school board city and a mayoral control city. Many millions of dollars were expended, most by deep-pocketed supporters in the Los Angeles school board election.

I am a supporter of mayoral control, with changes.

The arrow of accountability should point to the mayor.

In Federalist Paper # 51 James Madison wrote,

… the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

 The current mayoral control system in New York City gives the mayor unbridled power; if you don’t like a decision: vote against the mayor at the next election.

In February the Assembly will post vacant and expired term positions for the Board of Regents. Anyone can apply, all applicants are interviewed at public, live-streamed sessions and the legislature will select Board of Regents members to serve five year terms.

They can’t be removed at the whim of the legislature.

The legislature has done an outstanding job; the Regents members selected are passionate and dedicated advocates for the children and parents of the state of New York.

The New York City PEP members are totally unknown and simply rubberstamp the decisions of the mayor and chancellor.

I suggest that the law be amended so that the members of the PEP serve fixed terms, and can only be removed for cause. If the members can be removed at anytime; why is a board necessary?  Might as well abolish the PEP and make the Department of Education a mayoral department as are the other departments in the city.

Appoint the “best and the brightest” and give them the authority speak in a forthright manner, not mirror the whims of the appointing authority.

Constructive criticism in a transparent environment results in better decisions.

I suggest another change: the mayor and borough presidents appoint members, the other governmental authority, the City Council, has no role. The Council approves the budget and the City Charter gives the Council oversight, meaning holding public hearings.

I suggest that the City Council be granted the authority to appoint one member to the PEP.

 The mayor will still appoint a majority of the PEP members.

 The Council, through a member on the PEP will have a role in policy formation.

The current PEP meetings are poorly attended; more staff members than average citizens in the audience. The meetings are desultory with the outcomes pre-determined. Occasionally a borough president appointee will raise a question. There is no reason to ever attend a meeting.

The Regents meetings are vibrant, commonly over 100 attendees; the board members discuss and debate policies impacting students across the state.

Decisions are sent out for public comment, on major issues the board appoints Work Groups made up of stakeholders across the state.

Even the crucial role of selecting principals minimizes the role of parents. Under the previous regulations parent committees reviewed all resumes, selected candidates to be interviewed, in conjunction with the superintendent interviewed candidates and made recommendations to the superintendent who made the final selection. The current process gives the superintendent the authority to choose who is interviewed. The role of parents is minimized.

Parents are not to be feared, increasing participation of parents in the process will not diminish the authority of the mayor, and while the process may be at times contentious the ultimate decisions will be far better and more widely accepted.

Sunlight warms the heart.

Comments welcome ….

3 responses to “How Effective is Mayor Control in New York City? Has Mayoral Control Effectively Addressed Inequities and Overall Effectiveness?

  1. The mayor always has had fiscal authority. Mayoral control is about also shifting student performance accountability to the city’s chief executive.

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  2. Mayoral Control works in places where The Mayor really cares about public education, diversity, Talented and Gifted Instruction, specialized and accelerated High schools. In NYC, the Mayor is ignorant of these educational pilars. He is ignorant of the many, many more minority kids could qualify for such instructional delivery. So his answer is to tokenly set aside 20 seats in each of the existing 4 specialized HSs for black and Hispanic students. He does this by excluding other ethnic students from their chance at the same high end approach to learning. Then he brings in a communist from SF who declares its the fault of white teacher bias that our Black and Brown kids under perform. Hey stupid…Just make more school s. BX HS Of Sci East, Bklyn Tech south, Stuyvesant North.. Call them satellite schools and begin each feshman class with 100 students. Ask the various colleges in the 5 boros to provide a building for the endeavor. They’ll all jump on board. Stop setting folks against folks,

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  3. Pingback: Would Parents Win a NYC School Board Election? or, a Billionaire? or, Charter School Supporters? | Ed In The Apple

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