Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Appointee on Panel for Educational Policy a Noted Klein Critic

Special to The Wave
by Norm Scott

Patrick Sullivan, co-founder of the NYC Public School Parents blog that has been extremely critical of many of the initiatives of Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg, has been appointed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer as the Manhattan representative to the Panel on Educational Policy. The PEP is the successor to the Board of Education that was eliminated in the shake-up that brought mayoral control of the schools. Each borough president gets to appoint one rep. The mayor appoints the rest of the panel.

Sullivan, who was sworn in at the PEP meeting at Murray Bergtraum HS on June 18, has been a board member of Class Size Matters, the organization founded by Leonie Haimson, a noted parent who has been critical of Bloomberg and Klein, often due to their resistance to addressing the high class sized in New York City, which are as much as 30% larger than the rest of the state. She reported to her listserv on June 18th:

At tonight's PEP meeting, Patrick immediately became the most incisive member on the panel, with pointed remarks to [James] Liebman and Klein about the interim assessments and the so-called "fair funding" reforms. He pointed out that Liebman's claim of no-stakes tests had been contradicted by the recent announcement that kids would be paid for acing the tests; Liebman also admitted that schools might choose to count the results of these "no-stakes assessments" in students' grades.

To Klein he pointed out that under the FSF proposal, about half of failing schools would have had substantial budget cuts if fully implemented-- and instead would see no extra funding at all. He also asked why the funding changes would not undercut the professional status of teachers, encouraging principals to try to get rid of their most experienced staff.

Klein had no convincing answers to any of this, and was clearly flustered by the unaccustomed level of sophistication of the questions. Finally, Patrick was the only member of the PEP to vote against the proposal.

Other than a revolt over 3rd grade retention in March 2004 when dissenters were removed by Bloomberg (known as the Monday Night Massacre), the panel has functioned as a rubber stamp for Klein/Bloomberg policy, rarely dissenting or raising probing questions. Former Brooklyn PEP member Martine Guerrier, the most notable PEP member who questioned some of the policies and the only survivor who voted against the 3rd grade retention, was appointed Feb. 28 to the $150,000 a year CEO of Parent Engagement by Klein. Despite asking some probing questions, Guerrier generally voted along with the panel. It has been surmised that she was under some constraints due to the alliance between Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Bloomberg.

Sullivan, a parent who lives on the East Side, has become an increasingly strong voice in educational circles, building bridges between parents and teachers. He appears to be the first member of the PEP who will provide some level of resistance to the "monkey-see, monkey-do" mentality of the PEP and his appointment may reflect the sense that the Bloomberg/Klein days are waning. The question of the day is: Will Bloomberg and Klein exert political pressure on Scott Stringer to keep Sullivan under control and will they be successful?

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