Tag Archives: mayoral control

Who is Responsible for the Demise of Mayoral Control? Eva

Years ago I served on the teacher union negotiating team in New York City.  We started with formal meetings across the table with thick briefing books; each side presented “demands” and the other side agreed, disagreed or put aside for further discussion. Slowly, the number of “demands” was pared down to the core issues. We discussed an issue and management would respond, “We have to discuss among ourselves, we’ll be back in an hour.” The hour turned into two and three and more hours as management consulted with the city and school boards and “other interested parties.”

The ultimate decision-makers were management, the Board of Education, and the union; however. neither side wanted other organizations to publicly trash the ultimate settlement; consensus settlements are essential

In 1975 the negotiations began in the spring and moved through the summer as the differences narrowed, days before the start of school the city pitched toward default and layoff notices went out to  14,000 teachers. We rapidly moved from “Lets’ keep talking and start the school year” to a strike vote.  I still vividly remember the Delegate Assembly, after almost two days of around the clock negotiations, a strike vote was almost unanimously voted by the thousand plus delegates and teachers walked the picket line.

After a week on strike and a complex agreement teachers returned and later in the fall the union actually loaned the city money to avert default. (Read “How the UFT Saved the City” here) and in a couple of years all laid off teachers were offered jobs.

The 2002 mayoral control law in New York City has a sunset clause – unless it is extended the law sunsets, expires, the city returns to the previous management structure – a seven member board, one member appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor. In May the city would conduct school board elections in the 32 community school districts.

Under Mayor Bloomberg the legislature extended the law for multiple years, in 2009 the law did expire, the central board met and “re-hired” Chancellor Joel Klein and in August the legislature held a special session and renewed the law for multiple years.

This year the key players are the leader of majority Democrats in the Assembly, Carl Heastie and the Republican leader in the Senate, John Flanagan and Governor Cuomo.

Why is Flanagan, who represents a district on the north shore of Long Island, with no charter schools, such an avid supporter of charter schools?

The answer, in my view, is simple: dollars from national supporters of charter schools, i.e., Walmart, etc., and the major player: Eva Moskowitz

Eliza Shapiro at Politico writes,

“Moskowitz has run the network with the ferocity and urgency of a political campaign, with City Hall press conferences attacking the mayor, selectively placed op-eds and leaks in friendly media outlets, and a robust lobbying infrastructure in Albany that has helped cultivate support from Republican legislators outside the city.” 

“In January, during the fight over DeVos’ nomination, Moskowitz released a statement saying the nominee had “the talent, commitment, and leadership capacity to revitalize our public schools and deliver the promise of opportunity that excellent education provides.”

Most charter schools are community charter schools, idiomatically referred to as “Mon and Pop” charter schools. The question of whether the cap should increased has no impact on these schools. The network charter schools, charter management organizations with multiple schools, have opposed Trump policies. The only supporter of Trump policies in the charter world is Eva Moskowitz.

Moskowitz’s name was conspicuously absent, for example, from a public letter protesting Trump’s education budget, signed by the leaders of KIPP, Uncommon and Achievement First — the three other major charter networks in New York City. Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, sits on Success’s board, but has urged charter backers not to join the Trump administration.

While not sitting at the table, Eva clearly has veto power over any settlement. Flanagan needs the charter school dollars to fund campaigns to make sure the Republicans maintain their slim, very slim, one-vote majority in the Senate.

What happens next?

The legislature can return and extend mayoral control. or,

The borough presidents will appoint members to the central board and the current 13-member Panel for Education Priorities, nine appointed by the mayor will dissolve.

Three of the borough presidents, Reuben Diaz, the Bronx, Eric Adams, Brooklyn and Melinda Katz, Queens, will be candidates for citywide office four years down the road, all will be elected in November to their last term, they are term-limited. Maybe they’ll simply re-appoint Farina as their predecessors did in 2009, or, act independently to raise their own profile citywide.  Maybe they will question de Blasio/Farina education policies and encourage a public debate. In the past the borough president appointed members who were highly political, seeking political advantage for their borough president. (“political advantage” is a polite way of saying patronage).

Esmeralda Simmons, a professor at Medgar Evers College was a Dinkens appointee to the central board – I listened to her describe a totally politicized board (unfortunately no longer online).

While Regents members are ‘elected” by the Democratic majority in the Assembly to the best of my knowledge they are totally free to make any decision, and, the members are highly qualified.

If the Brooklyn selectee to a new central board is Brooklyn College professor David Bloomfield, the mayor selections NYU Metro Center professor David Kirkland and education advocate Leonie Haimson, and other selectees who are highly regarded educators and advocates, a central board selected for expertise and advocacy, no political loyalty, the return to a central board might be fruitful.

While community school board authority was limited by 1997 legislation the elections might be highly contentious. The powers of local school boards could be limited, or, expanded by the central board.

Back in November, 2013, weeks after the de Blasio election I mused over whether we would engage in a wide-ranging public debate.

Tyack and Cuban in their seminal “Tinkering Toward Utopia,” a study of the school reform movement over many decades emphasizes that reforms are only embedded if they are bottom up, reforms must reflect the changes accepted by teachers and parents.

Tyack and Cuban argue that the ahistorical nature of most current reform proposals magnifies defects and understates the difficulty of changing the system. Policy talk has alternated between lamentation and overconfidence. The authors suggest that reformers today need to focus on ways to help teachers improve instruction from the inside out instead of decreeing change by remote control, and that reformers must also keep in mind the democratic purposes that guide public education.

The current reforms, regardless of their value, have been imposed from above. As teachers ask questions, push back, the administration shoves harder and harder, resulting in increasing frustration and hostility within schools.

The debate is currently over should we have districts or networks, the details of the teacher evaluation plan, letter grading of schools, closing of schools, etc., rather than the larger and more significant question: what are our core principles?

Do we want to continue a system based on choice and accountability, or, move to a system based on equity? Do we want a system driven by top-down proscriptive, requirements, a compliance-driven system, or, a bottom up system with key instructional decisions made at the district/school level?

Do we want a school system built around communities with a heavy dose of parent and community involvement or a school system driven by the goals of the mayor?

Do we want a school system in which parents, teachers and school leaders play a role in establishing policies at the school level, and if so, how do we monitor progress?

What are the “big ideas” that should drive teaching and learning in the 1800 plus schools?

Clearly, we have made substantial progress, clearly we have a long way to go. Past experience tells us that “politics as usual,’ behind the scenes wheeling-and-dealing for political advantage, would be destructive of all the gains over the last four years; returning to a central board without a selection process free from politics is returning to a seriously flawed management system. The current structure is far from perfect, some of my suggestions above are still absent from the mayoral control management model.

In my view the failure of achieving an extension of mayoral control is directly traceable to Eva Moskowitz – she holds millions of dollars to fund Republican campaigns in her grip, and, Flanagan and company could not afford, in political terms, to ignore her.

Not only is mayoral control being held hostage, so are the tax extenders that are crucial to supplement the budget of many upstate cities; if the tax extenders are not passed these communities will face staggering cuts in services.

As the legislature swirled toward adjournment a change was made in SUNY regs that allow charter schools to hire unlimited numbers of uncertified teachers and certify the teachers themselves – no edTPA, no exams at all (Read the story and link to the regulations here)

Gideon John Tucker (February 10, 1826 – July 1899) was an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician. In 1866, as Surrogate of New York, he wrote in a decision of a will case: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Not much has changed.

 

 

 

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Tick Tock: Mayoral Control Dangles by a Thread as the Legislature Enters Its Last Day: Can the Governor Be The Deal Maker?

Klein: ‘Hopeful’ For 2-Year Mayoral Control

By Nick Reisman

A two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools is under discussion, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein said at the end of a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders.

“We’re hopeful we can do a two-year extender of mayoral,” he said after the meeting. “We’re hopeful. That’s not a deal.”

 

The state legislature will adjourn tomorrow, June 21st and the staffs of the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate will be up all night trying to cobble together the outstanding issues.

Why do issues wait until the last possible chance of agreement?

Politics is about gaining advantage, the Republicans “intimation” that Obama was not born in the nation, constant subtle racism, Bengazi, e-mails, etc.,  have nothing to do with policy, in fact, the only policy issue – “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, is turning out to be a major negative for Republicans.

The consistent attacks worked, a Republican president, although for the party insiders the wrong Republican and both houses of Congress.

In New York State linking mayoral control to charter schools has enabled the Senate Republicans to collect substantial campaign dollars from charter school supporters across the nation by forcing reluctant Democrats to support charter school issues in order to retain mayoral control.

This year the Democrats are taking a firm stance.

If mayoral control is not renewed New York City will revert to the prior management model – decentralization. A seven-member school board: one appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor and 40 elected school boards, the elections would be held in May, 2018. (See decentralization law here). Virtually everyone, from the governor to both houses of the legislature to the editorial boards of the newspapers to the good government groups totally reject a return to the previous management model – decentralization.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control and in the same bill included tax extenders for a number of local communities, in Republican districts, that in prior years were routinely passed. and are non-controversial..

The Republican-controlled Senate introduced three bills all linking mayoral control to pro-charter school legislation.

The speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, stated under no circumstances would mayoral control be linked to pro-charter school legislation: public posture – a stalemate.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced a  “Transparency and Accountability for Charter School Funding  Bill,”

This bill would provide enhanced transparency and accountability of charter schools in regards to enrollment targets, discipline policies,management and operation of the charter school, charter reserve funds,charter facilities rental aid payments, information disseminated to parents regarding probationary status, and residency dispute issues.

Read the entire bill here.

Governor Cuomo has made his position clear last week and was pessimistic in an interview 

ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo expressed pessimism that the expiring law giving Mayor de Blasio control over the city school system will be renewed before the state Legislature ends its annual session next week.

… he believes any solution should include a three-year extension of the law coupled with pro-charter school provisions …

The question is do they care enough to do it,” he said of the Assembly and Senate reaching a compromise agreement. “I would bet against it. They could have made this compromise a long time ago (during budget talks).”

Asked if he’s disturbed the governor seems to be siding with the Senate GOP rather than with his fellow Dems in the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “same song, different day.”

If no law is passed the legislature goes home and the demise of mayoral control remains in the headlines. With minimal opposition Mayor de Blasio will be re-elected; the gubernatorial and legislative races aren’t until 2018.

A political aphorism: when you toss a rock into a pond of feces you never know who’ll get splashed.

The Republicans can simply walk away, allow mayor control to revert to decentralization, and absorb the criticism, and, if the New York City school system begins to disintegrate the Republicans can “get splashed.”

With all the state offices on the ballot in 2018 and Republicans holding a narrow one-seat majority is the risk too great?  The governor, as he has frequently done, can blame the catastrophe on the “dysfunctional legislature;” however, outside of New York City the Republicans had a majority, Cuomo needs a big majority in the city, and, the Democratic voters may look at the “splash stains” on his garments.

Or, a compromise, renew mayoral control, raise the New York City cap on charter schools and parts of the Charter School Transparency and Accountability in Funding bill (see above).

Or, a simple two year extension of mayoral control and come back to fight again in 2019.

The Assembly Dems, the Senate Repubs, the Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and the governor will each by vying to be the deal-maker

For my friends in Albany a late night and cold pizza

Mayoral Control and Charter Schools: Pawns on the Chessboard of Politics

Back in the eighties a major issue in Albany was the death penalty; Republicans and DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) supported a death penalty law opposed by progressive Democrats. After a few years a death penalty law passed in both houses and Governor Cuomo pere vetoed the bill; the legislature overrode the veto – New York State had a death penalty law.

A few years later a Republican operative bemoaned the passage, “It was stupid, we gave up a great election issue.”

Politics is about gaining advantage, the Republicans “intimation” that Obama was not born in the nation, constant subtle racism, Bengazi, e-mails, etc.,  have nothing to do with policy, in fact, the only policy issue – “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, is turning out to be a major negative for Republicans.

The consistent attacks worked, a Republican president, although for the party insiders the wrong Republican and both houses of Congress.

In New York State linking mayoral control to charter schools has enabled the Senate Republicans to collect substantial campaign dollars from charter school supporters across the nation by forcing reluctant Democrats to support charter school issues in order to retain mayoral control.

This year the Assembly Democrats taking a firm line.

Both houses of the state legislature, the Assembly and the Senate will adjourn on Wednesday, June 21st.

If mayoral control is not renewed New York City will revert to the prior management model – decentralization. A seven-member school board: one appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor and 40 elected school boards, the elections would be held in May, 2018. (See decentralization law here). Virtually everyone, from the Governor to both houses of the legislature to the editorial boards of the newspapers to the good government groups totally reject a return to the previous management model – decentralization.

The legislature had three days to find common ground.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control and in the same bill included tax extenders for a number of local communities, in Republican districts, that in prior years were routinely passed and are non-controversial. If the tax extenders do not pass the communities would face serious fiscal hardships.

The Republican-controlled Senate introduced three bills, all linking mayoral control to pro-charter school legislation.

The Speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, stated under no circumstances would mayoral control be linked to pro-charter school legislation.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced a  “Transparency and Accountability for Charter School Funding  bill,

This bill would provide enhanced transparency and accountability of charter schools in regards to enrollment targets, discipline policies,management and operation of the charter school, charter reserve funds,charter facilities rental aid payments, information disseminated to parents regarding probationary status, and residency dispute issues.

Read the entire bill here.

Governor has made his position clear, and, was pessimistic in an interview,

ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo expressed pessimism that the expiring law giving Mayor de Blasio control over the city school system will be renewed before the state Legislature ends its annual session next week.

… he believes any solution should include a three-year extension of the law coupled with pro-charter school provisions …

“The question is do they care enough to do it,” he said of the Assembly and Senate reaching a compromise agreement. “I would bet against it. They could have made this compromise a long time ago (during budget talks).”

Asked if he’s disturbed the governor seems to be siding with the Senate GOP rather than with his fellow Dems in the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “same song, different day.”

If no law is passed the legislature goes home the demise of mayoral control remains in the headlines. With minimal opposition Mayor de Blasio will be re-elected; the gubernatorial and legislative races aren’t until 2018.

The Republicans can simply walk away, allow mayor control to revert to decentralization, and absorb the criticism.

The Democrats can hold the line – mayoral control is not linked to charter schools.

The Governor can attack, as he frequently does, in his words, the dysfunctional legislature.

Or, a compromise, renew mayoral control, raise the New York City cap on the number of charter schools and pass parts of the Charter School Transparency and Accountability in Funding bill, or, a compromise that makes no sense to anyone, except the legislature.

Pure crass politics, basic ideological beliefs and egos all clash.

In the calculus of politics who gains and who loses, who is the better chess player?

If no bill is passed the legislature can return later in the summer or after election day; however, special sessions are rare.

19th century German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck is credited with saying: “The two things you don’t want to see made in person are sausages and laws.”

A wise man.

Mayoral Control, Appointed or Elected Boards of Education: Are Urban School Districts Governable?

About 4 AM next Friday morning one of houses of the state legislature will adjourn closing out the session; with cries of they have to return over the summer to complete this issue or that issue. Extremely unlikely.

The bills will come across the legislators desks at a rapid pace, with most voted before they are read. A few are high profile: closing loopholes in the campaign finance law, legalizing fantasy sports gambling, a constitutional amendment to deprive convicted legislators of their pensions, and, mayoral control of New York City schools, the vast majority of the bills are far, far under the radar.

The Assembly bill extends mayoral control for three years; the Senate bill extends mayoral control for one year and creates an Inspector, appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate with sweeping powers. If no action is taken the system reverts to a seven-member board appointed by the borough presidents and the mayor.

The governor supports a three year extension and the power elites support continuing mayoral control. Merryl Tisch in an op ed in the NY Daily News supports extending mayoral control.

Tisch posits,

Mayoral control has not worked perfectly under either Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Mayor de Blasio, but it has worked far better than what we had before. New York City has seen consistent, significant increases in graduation rates, greater accountability across the system and the introduction of robust school choice — giving students from every neighborhood greater opportunity for a quality education. Critically, unlike the system that preceded mayoral control, we now know who is in charge. The voters ultimately can hold the CEO of the city accountable for how well our children learn.

Famously, when someone criticized a Bloomberg educational policy he responded, “Don’t vote for me next time.”

Although the mayoral control debate will end in a few days it has been characterized by an absence of debate.

Has “robust school choice” given “students from every neighborhood greater opportunity for quality education” or further segregated the school system by race, class and income?

The Bloomberg administration created scores of “screened” schools, schools that only accepts kids with high test scores, creating “have” and “have not” schools. Were these schools created to “provide school choice” or to win over middle class parents and garner potential voters?

Numbers of school suspensions have dropped dramatically: are our kids better behaved, do our teachers have been peace-making skills or did the chancellor simply tighten the faucet on approving suspensions?

Under a mayoral control system every announcement, every initiative is accompanied by a carefully crafted press release. I’m sure that the “mayor’s person” is sitting at the table vetting the political impact of every decision.

The previous seven-member appointed board has been vilified as being too political, I have to smile. The borough president appointee fought for projects for their borough while the mayor fights for projects for the entire city, or, his/her voting base.

Under the current mayoral control system the Community Educational Councils (CEC) are toothless and superintendents carry the Tweed policy torch. While under the prior elected school board system the poorest districts had the least effective boards there were highly effective boards that responded to local communities.

District 2 in Manhattan under the leadership of an innovative superintendent had an extensive and effective professional development program that impacted classroom instruction. District 22 in Brooklyn bused over 1,000 Afro-American kids for integration purposes, no court order, it was simply the right thing to do; they also implemented school-based budgeting with empowered school and district leadership teams. A superintendent in the poorest district in Brooklyn, appointed by the chancellor unified a fractious district and improved student outcomes.

Does the current mayoral-guided system build sustainability or will the next and the next school district leader impose their view of education policy?

Unfortunately educational policy appears to be the flavor of the week.

Transparency and open debate must guide all change processes. Participation reduces resistance.

Teachers and parents increasingly came to despise Bloomberg/Klein mayoral control hubris – if you don’t like the policy, don’t vote for me.  So far the de Blasio/Farina interregnum has had a kinder and gentler face. While Bloomberg/Klein treated teachers like replaceable widgets deBlasio/Farina have constantly praised the workforce.

The larger issue is creating a process that has highly competent leadership at the top and local leaders with the ability and support to make the right decisions at the school level.

Next week a decision will be made; probably to continue mayoral control, maybe with a blue ribbon commission to review the current iteration.

Parents, teachers and school leaders voice must be part of any school governance process.

Parsing the NYS Election Cycle: Experts Mull the Campaigns and Muse Over the Albany Session

(For Political Junkies)

The Center for New York City Affairs at the New School convenes panels of campaign staff, consultants and advocates after major elections to reflect on the campaigns: last year the mayoral and city council, this year the gubernatorial and the State Senate races.

The first panel included the top staffers from the Cuomo, Astorino and Teachout campaigns (Matt Wing, communication director, Cuomo campaign, Peter Kauffmann, senior advisor, NYS Democratic Committee, Jessica Proud, Astorino spokesperson, Michael Lawler, campaign manager, Astorino campaign, Kate Albright-Hanna, communications director, Teachout campaign and others) as well as Zephyr herself for the first section of the panel.

A few words about the panelists, they are the pros, they run campaigns for a living, plot the strategy and the communications operations, running a campaign is intense, with a clock ticking down to Election Day. This year there were three election days, the WFP convention, the Democratic primary in September and the November 7th general election.

The Cuomo administration over their first four years has successfully managed the news. The governor rarely gives press conferences, rarely gives “off the cuff” comments. His interactions with media are managed from the Cuomo side. While candidates and electeds generally lust after “earned media” the Cuomo administration carefully crafts interactions with the press.

Let’s define “earned media,”

Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence, whereas social media refers to publicity gained through grassroots action, particularly on the Internet. The media may include any mass media outlets, such as newspaper, television, radio, and the Internet, and may include a variety of formats, such as news articles or shows,

Teachout had no money, Cuomo ended up with a $50 million war chest and Astorino struggled for dollars as the national Republican organization wrote him off.

Although the panel did not discuss (there was no opportunity for questions) the governor’s charter school support was clearly intended to cut off funds to Astorino. StudentsFirstNY was richly funded, they ended up spending $4 million on Senate campaigns, where would they drop the four mil was an early question. If Cuomo opposed or was neutral on charter schools the $4 mil could have been dropped into the Astorino campaign and snowball into larger and larger Republican donations. Jumping on the charter school bandwagon closed off a potential spigot of dollars to Astorino, an example of the political calculus of campaigns.

Zephyr Teachout was a wild card, she came out of nowhere, and the left wing of the Democratic Party is housed in the Working Families Party (WFP). On the other side of the aisle the Conservative party is the right wing of the Republican Party.

At the WFP convention Teachout emerged as a serious opponent, Cuomo’s support of charter schools, the failure to pass the Women’s Equality agenda and the Dreamers legislation angered the left, and, suddenly they had a candidate: Zephyr Teachout. After serious arm twisting the WFP endorsed Cuomo. Teachout explained how they decided to run in the Democratic primary and the enormous hurtle – collecting 30,000 signatures to get on the ballot in three weeks – they collected 45,000 signatures.

The turnout in the primary was extremely low, without dollars Teachout, impressively, ended up with 34% of the vote, probably representing the left wing of Democrats in the state. I suspect Teachout votes included many teacher vote

Obama’s approval rating in NYS is 39%, lower than his national approval rating, in one of the “bluest” state in the nation. The 30% voter turnout in the November election was one of the lowest in history, and the decrease in votes was the largest among Democratic voters.

The panelists in the second panel focused on the Senate races included strategists from both parties, consultants who run campaigns, advocates and academics (Gerald Benjamin, professor SUNY, Jake Dilemani, Parkside Group, Tom Doherty, Mercury Strategy, Jeffrey Plaut, Global Strategy, Blair Horner, New York Public Interest Research Group, David Nir, Daily Kos, Nomi Konst, The Accountability Project and others) mused over the Senate races..

Of the 63 seats in the Senate only seven were competitive and the Republicans needed five of the seven seats, three of which were held by Democrats. They won six.

The panel discussed whether Cuomo wanted a Democratic Senate – would he be happier with a Republican Senate and a Democratic Assembly, with the governor in the middle negotiating with both sides? Cuomo raised $50 million, spent forty, only one million was spent on the Senate races.

A few of the panelists argued the Democrats were relying on an old paradigm, the older prime voters; there was a lack of appeal to younger potential voters who receive all their info from social media. They also felt that Obama running out of the party structure in 08 and 12 weakened the Democratic Party. Others pointed out that in off year elections the electorate is older, whiter and wealthier.

Astorino, outside of NYC “won” the election 49% to 46%; inside the city he only won 18% …twenty years of Republican NYC mayors were an anomaly, although a deep-pocketed, a very deep pocketed Republican could win in NYC in 2017.

As one panelist reminded us the Senate, which means the Republicans, drew the current district lines. The money that flowed into the races came primarily from Wall Street and Real Estate, and 99.8% of voters did not contribute. The best chances of defeating an incumbent are in a primary.

All the panelists wondered whether the sharp decline in voters was a trend: is the electorate becoming more disenchanted with politics and the elective process?

The moderator asked: what would be the toughest issue in the upcoming session.

Three laws “sunset,” they expire unless renewed by the legislature and the governor.

Rent Control: A million New Yorkers, primarily in New York City, fall under rent control; if the law is allowed to expire, landlords would be free to increase rents – this is a vital issue for the Democrats and the Republicans will extract their drops of blood or, pounds of flesh, or, human sacrifices.

2% Property Tax Cap: The tax cap is the major piece of economic legislation of the Cuomo years, failure to reauthorize would probably result in increases in property taxes around the state and could have a negative impact on the state economy, and this issue does not impact New York City, it is an enormous issue around the state.

Mayoral Control: A New York City issue, with absence of Bloomberg Mayoral Control is not a top drawer issue; however, no one wants to go back to elected school boards.

The panelists ranked Rent Control as the # 1 issue.

A “deal” could emerge in a “lame duck” session in December; the rumors are a repeat of 1998, a salary increase for legislators for an increase in the charter cap. I don’t think so, why would the Sheldon Silver want to remove a “trading chip” before the session begins?

The next key date is April 1, the date the budget is due. Over the last few budget cycles controversial issues have been packed into the budget, an opportunity to trade one item for another.

If key issues are still dangling in the final days of the session, mid-June will become the usual 24/7 days as the legislature and the governor scramble.

The “game” begins on January 7th with the governor’s State of the State address.

What is the Role of a Board of Education in a Mayoral Control City? Can de Blasio and an Independent Board Co-Exist?

If we live in a mayoral control city, what is the role of the board of education (Panel for Educational Excellence)?

In the months and months of the mayoral campaign, candidate, now Mayor-elect de Blasio laid out a comprehensive list of “likes,” full day pre-K and an extended day in high poverty middle schools paid for by higher taxes on the rich. smaller class size, more art, music and physical education, more use of portfolio assessment and selecting principals from among experienced teachers.

On the “dislike” side: closing schools, letter grades for schools, co-location of charter schools in public schools and high stakes testing.

For the last decade the mayor has run the department of education – the board of education, in New York City called the Panel for Educational Excellence. Early on when two board members voted against a mayoral policy they were immediately replaced.

In effect, we had no functioning board of education.

School boards across the nation are elected in local elections – the boards hire superintendents, set policy including curriculum, negotiate teacher contracts, set school tax rates usually based on assessed value of property. School boards have their origin in the eighteenth century.

Louis Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, in the Wall Street Journal, sees school boards as retrograde,

I believe the problem lies with the structure and corporate governance of our public schools. We have over 15,000 school districts in America; each of them, in its own way, is involved in standards, curriculum, teacher selection, classroom rules and so on. This unbelievably unwieldy structure is incapable of executing a program of fundamental change. While we have islands of excellence as a result of great reform programs, we continually fail to scale up systemic change.

Diane Ravitch, in Forbes, disagrees with Gerstner,

School boards play an important role as defenders of the public interest in education. They are part of the democratic process of decision-making. School boards might slow down decision making, but that is part of their job. They offer a forum where the public may be heard, where problems may be raised, where executive decisions may be challenged. At hearings, school officials must explain and defend their decisions and budget proposals. Listening to the public about how its children will be educated and how its money will be spent does slow down the decision-making process

For decades New York City has had appointed school boards, from 1970 until 2002 the board was appointed by the borough presidents and the mayor. While the board was the de jure leader of education in the city the de facto leader was the mayor. Mayors claimed credit for successes and blamed the board for failures, and, if necessary were always able to garner enough votes to fire and hire new chancellors. Esmerelda Simmons, a Dinkins appointee to the board paints a dreary picture of a board spending its time carrying out political contracts for their patrons.

The 2002 New York City Mayoral law grants powers to the 13-member board, eight of whom are selected by the mayor, The law lays out the “Powers and duties of the city board,”

2590-g. Powers and duties of the city board. The city board shall
advise the chancellor on matters of policy affecting the welfare of the
city school district and its pupils. The board shall exercise no
executive power and perform no executive or administrative functions.
(a) approve standards, policies, and objectives proposed by the
chancellor directly related to educational achievement and student
performance;
(b) consider and approve any other standards, policies, and objectives
as specifically authorized or required by state or federal law or
regulation;
(c) approve all regulations proposed by the chancellor or the city
board and any amendments made thereto;

The powers of the board are vague, and, up till now the board has exercised no powers, they simply rubber stamped the decisions of the mayor/chancellor.

Will the new board, the board appointed by de Blasio have the authority to reject decisions of the chancellor? How independent will the eight de Blasio appointed members be?

We do not have models.

Mayoral control has meant that education policy is set in City Hall.

How do you blend a mayoral control system with a policy board who oversees the actions of the chancellor?

If de Blasio appoints a board made up of well-respected New Yorkers will he abide by their decisions if they are not in line with his campaign promises?

The Mayoral-elect has a challenging task.

How Do You Select a Candidate in the September 10th Democratic Primary? Is Mayoral Control the Core Issue? and, BTW, How Should NYC Schools Be Governed?

At each mayoral forum the candidates are asked, “Do you support mayoral control?” If the candidate answers, “No” the audience, usually made up of parents and teachers, applauds.

Around the world schools are run by the federal or regional government authorities – with no parental or community involvement – maybe a school council at the school level. Curriculum are national, teacher union contracts are national or regional. In a French school, a lycee, the same lesson is taught on the same day throughout the country. High stakes tests determine placement in secondary schools and colleges.

Education in the United States is governed by 16,000 elected school boards under rules set by the states.

In the late sixties urban policies advocated giving communities as much authority over schools as possible. If local voters and parents had “ownership” of schools communities would create policies at the local level to assure improvements in academic achievement. The decentralization law created 32 semi-autonomous school boards, elected in proportional representation elections with the authority to hire superintendents, hire principals and determine budget priorities. The seven-member salaried, staffed central board – one appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor selected a chancellor and set overall city policy.

By any measure decentralization failed in the poorest neighborhoods in the city – the neighborhoods that were supposed to benefit the most suffered from extremely low voter turnout – elections dominated by local electeds and special interest pockets – chaos and corruption in the poorest districts reigned while higher income districts thrived with high levels of parent involvement.

Esmeralda Simmons, a Dinkins appointee described borough president appointees who spent their time wheeling and dealing political “contracts,” a totally politicized board unconcerned with education policy.

Mayoral control began in the mid-nineties in Boston – a close mayor-superintendent (Menino-Payzant) relationship that was praised across the board

In an often-quoted State of the City speech in 1996, delivered in the auditorium of the troubled Jeremiah Burke High School, Mayor Thomas M. Menino challenged residents to “judge me harshly” if his overhaul of the city’s schools failed. It was one of the most passionate speeches he made in his two-decade quest to be known as the “education mayor.”

As Menino prepares to leave office next January, he can proudly point to an array of impres¬sive accomplishments: historically low dropout rates, skyrocketing standardized test scores in many grades, full-day kindergarten available for all 5-year-olds, rising college completion rates among Boston high school graduates, and ¬extended days in dozens of schools, to name just a few.

As the mayoral control system moved across the nation, in 2007, Kenneth Wong, a Georgetown University professor examined mayor control. In his book, “The Education Mayor” he concludes,

… 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.

In New York City, in 2013, mayoral control is associated with the unpopular policies and personality of Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Unfortunately the mayoral forum moderators do not follow up – a “sound bite” and applause is not a policy.

If you oppose mayoral control, what do you favor?

Should we move to the LA system – an elected board representing geographical areas?

In the current round of school board elections in LA millions of dollars are pouring in from around the country – most of the dollars from “pro- (de)form interests.

Should the Mayor appoint a majority of the seats? Should the City Council, the Borough Presidents and the Mayor appoint members with no group having a majority?

Would a divided board lead to internal wheeling and dealing returning to a totally politicized Board?

Should all appointees serve fixed terms?

Should we consider a CUNY, SUNY model?

A majority of the CUNY board is appointed by the Governor with the “advice and consent” of the NYS Senate – a minority appointed by the Mayor – the president of the Faculty Senate serves on the Board. The Board meets six times a year with duties specified in detailed bylaws. The Chancellor, Mathew Goldstein has sweeping powers. The SUNY board trustees are appointed by the Governor with the “advice and consent” of the NYS Senate, also meets six times a year with clearly enunciated powers and selects a chancellor, Nancy Zimpher (http://www.suny.edu/chancellor/. also with extensive powers.

Should a board select a chancellor and grant the chancellor wide authority, and restrict itself to policy decisions?

As SUNY and CUNY trustees, should the central board have extensive backgrounds in other leadership positions?

Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu in an excellent report, “No More Rubber Stamps” calls for a screening panel to vet candidates and limit appointees to those candidates.

With four months until the September 10th primary Christine Quinn leads, far below the 40% threshold,

• 26% Christine Quinn
• 15% Anthony Weiner
• 12% John Liu
• 11% Bill de Blasio
• 11% Bill Thompson
• 2% Sal Albanese
• 1% Other
• 22% Undecided

Among registered Democrats in New York City including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, if the Democratic primary were held today, here is how the contest would stand without Anthony Weiner in the race:

• 30% Christine Quinn
• 15% Bill de Blasio
• 14% Bill Thompson
• 11% John Liu
• 2% Sal Albanese
• 2% Other
• 26% Undecided

If no candidate receives 40% of the vote in the September 10th Democratic primary the top two vote-getters will “runoff” in an election held on September 24th.

New Yorkers have yet to focus on the election – in 2009 Bill Thompson was 20% behind the Mayor a month before the election and closed to 5%…

It will probably not be until the waning days in August and the days leading up to September 10th that voters will focus.

With an excellent chance of a September 24th runoff can the Democratic winner stumble? Not according to the current polling, however, if the Working Families and the Independence Parties supported other candidates – four names on the November 5th ballot, who can tell…

Remember what did Winston Churchill said about democracy, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” or, if you’re a little more pessimistic, another relevant Churchill quote, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” then again maybe Abraham Lincoln got in right, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”
― Abraham Lincoln