New York

Black, Hispanic, and Asian activist groups join Learn NY

Learn NY, the pro-mayoral control group, is partnering with the Hispanic Federation, the Black Equity Alliance, and the Asian American Federation, the group announced today in a press release. The three groups are going to help Learn NY host forums. On the heels of news last week that the publisher of El Diario is joining the Learn NY board, this could bring a not-so-covert racial dynamic to the mayoral control debate. Another way Learn NY might make the same point: Among the group's lobbyists are former Bronx party boss Roberto Ramirez, who heads the MirRam group. Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, chairwoman of the education committee, just told me MirRam lobbyists have already begun meeting with lawmakers to pitch Learn NY's stance on the law. Learn NY's lead spokesman so far has been Geoffrey Canada, the black C.E.O. of Harlem Children's Zone. Having the city's non-white communities stand strongly for mayoral control would be a departure from the historical pattern. In the past, racial minorities have opposed mayors' efforts to take control. Remember decentralization here in the 1960s, led in part by the black and Puerto Rican communities? The pattern applies to other cities, too, according to this essay (PDF) by Columbia Teachers College professor Jeff Henig: The most important complaints have come from racial minorities, parents, and teachers. Despite the fact that it is presented in race-neutral language, mayoral control has sparked racially defined responses in a number of cities. Here's the full Learn NY press release:
New York

Lawmakers seize on Klein-time to complain about his control

Only one of these four state lawmakers had praise for Joel Klein today during his testimony on budget cuts: The woman on the bottom right, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark of Queens. How much do lawmakers in Albany dislike Joel Klein? The chancellor fielded a flurry of criticisms today after his testimony before a joint session of the legislature. And only some of the criticisms had anything to do with the subject of the day, budget cuts. The rest politely slammed Klein on the one Albany fight where he'll really need their help: mayoral control of the public schools. Klein desperately wants to preserve control as it is, but many lawmakers said they aren't happy with the law or with how he's led as chancellor. The criticism was so persistent that, at one point, Klein plead with lawmakers to keep their opinion of him out of their thoughts on mayoral control. "Whatever you think about me personally," he said, "you need the stability of that kind of leadership to transform education." Assemblyman Herman Farrell of Manhattan dedicated all of his questions for Klein to the mayoral control subject. "We've had what I call a silencing of the lambs," he said. "I don't know who speaks for the parents, who speaks on behalf of the parents." Farrell then proposed a way to bring debate back to the running of the schools: He wants to create a second position called "sub-chancellor" or "uber-chancellor" — someone to take on the regular chancellor. Assemblyman William Colton, who represents southern Brooklyn, made a similar complaint: “There seems to be a feeling among parents that they don’t have the input or the ability to be listened to," he said. Other lawmakers criticized Klein's policies.
New York

Advocates urge school construction with federal stimulus funds