Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Mayoral Control

The UFT leadership quickly cobbled together a resolution on mayoral control at the Dec. 4, 2006 Exec. Bd. meeting after the ICE resolution calling for the UFT to call for the end of mayoral control was emailed to Randi Weingarten by an ICE member asking for speaking time to present the motion at the Dec. 6 DA. That these people spend so much time worrying about what teeny tiny ICE is doing is beyond bizarre. And watching the machinations of Weingarten to try to paint ICE as being the ones not being democratic is truly a special treat - definitely better than some of those stale cookies at the meeting. Randi is trying to make it look like Ed Notes and ICE just came up with the idea of putting forth a resolution on mayoral control in respone to a Unity plan to create another task force - the usual method politicians use to stall an issue. In researching an article the Dec. paper edition of Ed. Notes I went back into the dusty -- cough, cough – archives and dug up some oldies but goodies. I had been writing about the negative impact of mayoral control on school systems around the nation in Ed. Notes in the monthly editions handed out at the Delegate Assembly since 2001. When Ed Notes expanded to a 16 page tabloid in the fall of 2002, the first edition (with a circulation of 12,000) had the following article on the front page.

September, 2002

Coming Soon to a School Near You: Mayoral Control

When UFT leader Randi Weingarten floated a proposal to give the mayor control of the school system in May 2001, Education Notes took strong exception, arguing that giving politicians control would only result in a system of education by the numbers in a corporate style system.

Our criticism caused a breach in our relationship to the UFT leadership that has not been healed to this day. Weingarten took exception to what she perceived was an accusation that she was selling us out. We did not go that far, but we did feel that she was in favor of recentralizing the school system, thus opting for short term gains (a quick contract) while sacrificing the long term interests of school workers, whose ability to control the conditions under which they work decrease significantly under centralized control.

Mayor Giuliani’s scornful rejection of that deal delayed our contract for more than a year. It was the union’s behind the scenes support for giving Mayor Bloomberg control that finally got the contract done. Did Weingarten sell out our educational interests for a pot of gold? The next few years will allow people to judge for themselves.

This month, we give our readers a break from our diatribes against centralized corporate style mayoral control and turn instead to surrogates.

We reprise the article George Schmidt, editor of Substance, Chicago’s independent educational newspaper, did for us in May (2002) which points to the lessons of Chicago over the last 7 years as a guidepost to the future of education in New York. A group of teachers had the pleasure of meeting George when he visited us this summer. (Note: This meeting with Schmidt was a precursor of the group that eventually formed ICE, which had gotten together primarily because of Weingarten's support for mayoral control.)

We include excerpts from an article on Chicago Teacher Union President Deborah Lynch. We also reprint Lynch’s campaign speech to the Chicago House of Delegates just before she was elected. This rousing speech talks about the impact of the corporate model.

Another Deborah (Meier) also comments on mayoral control in excerpts from an interview she gave the NY Times. Meier has been a legend as a progressive educator who seeks realistic long term solutions to problems and doesn’t just look to create the veneer of “let’s make things look like they’re okay” like the majority of “educators” do.

Howie Schwack, editor of Rockaway’s newspaper The Wave, gives us his surreal account of a meeting with City Council members and points out how politicians just don’t have a clue about education. Schwack’s account makes the future of education in New York look bleak. But then we know that already.

Deborah Meier on mayoral control
Deborah Meier has been a hero to those who wanted to see change in the NYC public school system. Meier seemed to have rational solutions to complex problems. As a teacher she ran open classrooms, started the small schools movement in NYC, and set up a progressive system at the Park East complex in Dist. 4. She finally gave up on the system and moved to Boston to set up a school. Now 71 she was the first public school teacher to win the “genius” MacArthur Foundation grant.

Excerpted from NY Times, 9/3/02, Jane Gross, author

"I can't imagine anything they can do that would make a substantial difference," she said, except bucking a nationwide trend of more and more standardized testing. "If the only thing you want is better test scores, it poisons the game."

Ms. Meier said that the current "mania for accountability," with rewards and punishments for students, teachers and administrators, was borrowed from the corporate world. "It's like Enron," she said, pointing to all the ways that educators can cook the books to make attendance, graduation rates and test scores appear better than they are. "When the goal is the numbers," she added, "it leads to distortion of the data. The connection to reality gets problematic."

What would she do? She would start with a small schools movement:

“Clustered in networks of half a dozen schools, teachers and principals could observe and critique each others' work, design accountability systems to suit their individual needs and systematically study what worked and what did not. It would take five years to arrive at effective measurements,” Ms. Meier said, “and probably a generation to make the small-school model and its less rigid accountability methods the norm.”

Her critics, she said, wanted "a faster, more guaranteed route," like the order to lift test scores annually. Her counter argument is that "being in too much of a hurry leads us to do things that are a waste of time" or to jump on the latest fads. Among them, in Ms. Meier's opinion, are putting city school systems under mayoral control, appointing chancellors who are not educators and moving district superintendents to a central location.

Ed Notes, September 2002

1 comment:

  1. Mayoral control is good for neither teachers nor students. Were it not for the mayor's well-oiled propaganda machine, the whole city would know.

    It's remarkable that a contract which does nothing but follow the pattern could be the basis for Randi not opposing renewal. She's admittedly very good at giving away something for nothing, but why that quality is seen as desirable in a union leader eludes me utterly.

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