Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Battle Over Mayoral Control? Sorry Yogi, It's Over

It's down to a battle of twicks and tweaks

There's been a lot of sturm and drang over whether mayoral control will be renewed in 2009. If it isn't will force us back to the much derided old system of local elected school board control over grades K-8 (32 districts) with central control over high schools and various special services along with a central board of education.

Much has been made this week over the enormous sums being spent by Bloomberg and his corporate buddies to steam roller the politicians (the corrupt and useless state legislature has the power to decide) and the public. They might as well have saved the money. Or maybe even put it into classrooms by buying school supplies (teachers and parents are funding an awful lot of this stuff while money flies to political manipulation.

While many of us were critics of the old system, there was never any attempt to fix those flaws as the baby was thrown out with the bath water when the mayor gained total control over the school system.

Other than a few groups like ICOPE, my colleagues in the Independent Community of Educators and some independent activists out there who still believe the same system of parent and community input should be given to urban parents just as it is in the surburbs, even the severest critics of the Bloomberg and Klein administration (Ravitch, Stern, and even Leonie Haimson) think there is a need for some centralized control in the hands of a politician (who controls the money.)

The UFT? They were the first out of the box to support mayoral control in 2001 (which was one of the issues that pushed me into opposition mode) and no matter the rhetoric coming out of 52 Broadway, we always predicted they would never waiver from that position and instead call for minor changes that would still leave the mayor in control. Tey even had a committee spend a year or more holding meetings and listening to all sides. We even had some ICE'ers involved and they have the people running the committee good grades for listening. But the results are predetermined no matter what people said and I think they were wasting their time.

What will happen is report will be issue with all the criticisms included but no real call for an end to mayoral control and a reversion to some improved version of neighborhood control which the UFT has opposed since the mid-60's.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who has been perceived as a thorn in Bloomberg's side, formed a commission to study the issue. Today the report was released.

What it amounts to is a joke with recommendations so inconsequential as to make us wonder if the money couldn't have been better used for school supplies. Like we need a 4 year term of office for the un-peppy PEP so they can't be fired by the mayor who appoints them anyway. Duhhhhh! Like now he'll make sure to appoint total robot nincompoops so he will not have to fire them. Read it here.

Nothing they do will make a difference unless there is radical change. The first step is to get politicians out of education, which by the way was the main flaw in the old decentralized system that existed from 1968 - 2002. All they did with mayoral control and their twicks and tweats is to shift the flow of influence (and patronage - the major interest of politicians) from one set of politicians to another.

Today's NY Times story


  1. ICOPE's Sam Anderson sent this comment to the listserve:

    What does this mean?

    "The mayor should appoint the chancellor, the 10-member commission of education experts and advocates concluded after hearing testimony from 50 witnesses, but an independent board, the Panel for Educational Policy, should have more influence on the city’s educational policies and budget.

    The report also says that local geographic school districts created decades ago should be re-established to give parents more access and influence, and that the city’s comptroller should have the same auditing power over the Education Department as he does over other city agencies."

    It means that Betsy Gotbaum has exposed her true allegiance: The Mayor's privatization plan to continue to miseducate and imprison Black, Latino and Asian children as well as guarantee the continued disempowering of their parents and educators.

    I say this because the Public Advocate and her education wonks were presented a comprehensive alternative policy to Mayoral Control that put education as a Human Right and direct parental, student and educator collaborative decision-making at the very center of NYC's public education system. As expected, it was ignored/rejected because it would give NO power to the mayor or his/her cronies and TOO MUCH power to the parents, children, educators and neighborhoods.

    The good thing is that we know where the Public Advocate stands relatively early in this fight for an education system based on Human Rights, equity, transparency, antiracism and shared power. The only "public" Ms Gotbaum is advocating for is for Bloomberg-Klein' s corporate public-- not the vast majority of the millions of families of color who what the REAL NYC is made of.

    Our struggle for a Peoples' Public Education System has just gotten sharper!
    Sam Anderson

  2. Unless the Panel is made up of persons who are accountable to the people of NY and not the mayor it will continue to be a rubber stamp for what the mayor wants. And the commission said that parents should have more input, but how? They don't say that. Saying parents and communities have to be consulted without any real repercussions if they aren't is only more of the same.

    Parents need the district offices recreated so they have a local access for consultation and to deal with issues. They need a PEP that is answerable to them in some form either by being appointed by the Boro Pres or by some local election. Whatever is decided what we have now is unacceptable. It leaves parents in the position as was so correctly stated, if they have a problem they can stand on the steps of city hall with a sign.

  3. As for the PEP, if we had a PEP consisting of 16 members, the Mayor to appoint 6 and each of the Beeps to appoint 2, the Mayor would have to win 3 of 10 of the Beep reps to prevail. Is that asking too much?

    Better still if 3 of the reps of the Mayor and 1 rep of each Beep be required to have a child currently in the system.

  4. Nothing in the report addresses the real gorilla in the room, that with mayoral control, the only "accountability" is voting the mayor out after four years. They've taken the word "accountability" and turned the definition on its head.


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