mayoral control

New York

RJ: Against the mayor on schools, but with him on term limits

Robert Jackson (via Flickr) In all the hubbub over term limits, here's one thing that's been overlooked: Robert Jackson, the chair of the City Council's education committee, is siding with Mayor Bloomberg and against the teachers union. Jackson indicated early on that he supports extending term limits without a voter referendum — see this interview by Liz Benjamin from August, when the idea first broke out. Now he is one of the group of 16 City Council members supporting the mayor's plan. His argument, as he just explained to me on the phone, is that he has always opposed term limits and should vote his conscience. The position is significant because it pits RJ (his nickname) against the United Federation of Teachers, which last week voted to go against the mayor by urging a voter referendum, and against other groups that he has allied with against Mayor Bloomberg. Jackson led the Campaign for Fiscal Equity effort to increase funding to city schools, a project that was strongly supported by the union. His tightness with the union has lately been displayed on his chest, next to the trademark "Robert Jackson" button he wears, where he's attached an Obama pin distributed by the American Federation of Teachers, the UFT's national umbrella union. Jackson also takes one of the most extreme positions against Bloomberg's treasured mayoral control of the schools. While even Comptroller Bill Thompson, a former president of the old Board of Education, favors some form of mayoral control, Jackson has said he would like it totally abolished. More of his rationale for supporting Bloomberg on term limits is below the jump.
New York

What would a third Bloomberg term mean for the city's schools?

Three years ago, Mayor Bloomberg said his 20-point margin of victory in his reelection campaign showed that New Yorkers were happy with his schools leadership. Next year, voters could have a chance to reaffirm that choice — or reverse it. Tomorrow, Bloomberg will announce plans to run for a third term, despite the two-term limit imposed by voters 15 years ago. Although polls indicate that the public isn't happy about the mayor's bid to use the City Council to overturn democratically imposed term limits, they also show that he is popular enough to coast into office for a third term. What would a third Bloomberg term mean for the city's schools? Judging from Bloomberg's attitude when he was reelected in 2005, he will interpret a win at the polls as voter approval of his education initiatives, regardless of what issues New Yorkers actually consider when casting their ballots. His reelection would be a disappointment to his critics, some of whom have already started counting down the days until the end of his term. But it would provide stability for principals and students in schools that have only recently found their feet after the most recent round of disruptive reorganizations. Consistency in the DOE could also generate data that's desperately needed to evaluate the city's recent school reforms. Four more years of Bloomberg would mean four more years of Children First initiatives and four more years of Chancellor Klein, who has long said that he will continue to lead the city's schools as long as the mayor asks him to. A third Bloomberg term would likely herald four more years of business-style, accountability-driven reforms and ambitious experiments, such as the pay-for-performance incentives program organized by Harvard professor Roland Fryer. And, unless the State Assembly mandates parent involvement or checks and balances on the mayor's power in June when it must consider the 2002 law that gave control over the city's schools to the mayor, we're likely to see four more years of top-down education reform that doesn't include parents, teachers, or students in the decision-making process. Solidifying assembly support for mayoral control is one of Bloomberg's major goals for his third term, the Post reports today.
New York

To mayor's chagrin, school governance panel recommends checks on his power

Earlier this month, a leading public commission charged with studying school governance in anticipation of the June 2009 sunset of the law granting control of the city's schools to the mayor released its final report, finding that the city should retain mayoral control but that "checks" on the mayor's power should be instituted and that public engagement before major decisions are made should be required. I'm a little late covering the report — from the Public Advocate's Commission on School Governance — but it remains timely. Today, Mayor Bloomberg rails against revisions to mayoral control in a letter to the editor of the Times. And tomorrow, an independent parent group studying mayoral control is holding an event about the history of school governance in New York City. The assembly has said it will begin holding public hearings on mayoral control in January. In a nearly yearlong process before making its recommendations, the 10-member commission solicited expert reports from a number of academics and heard testimony from more than 50 people, from Randi Weingarten to James Merriman of the New York Center for Charter School Excellence to Chancellor Klein himself. Ultimately, the commission identified a "general consensus" that mayoral control is superior to a decentralized system of school governance. But mayoral control in its current form, without any real checks on the mayor's authority, fails "to deliver on its promise of greater public accountability," the report concludes.
New York

Tonight: Senate Democrats hold mayoral control hearing in Brooklyn

With the 2002 law granting control of the city's schools to the mayor set to expire in less than a year, discussion about school governance in New York City is getting serious — and parents and educators are invited to share their thoughts tonight at a forum in Brooklyn. Photo by p_a_h For the last year, parents, educators, and community activists have weighed in on what the State Assembly should do when the law sunsets in July 2009. Some, including many in the current education administration, believe the law should be renewed as it is currently written. Others are advocating for a complete return to community control of schools, saying that mayoral control has shut out parent and community voices in school leadership. And still others have developed proposals for revisions to the law that would institute checks and balances on a mayor-controlled school system. But until recently, it wasn't clear how these wide-ranging proposals might gain traction. Now, members of the State Assembly have turned their attention to the mayoral control question as they gear up to tackle it in the upcoming term. Tonight, the Senate Democratic School Governance Task Force is holding its second of five hearings on mayoral control, at Brooklyn Borough Hall from 5 to 8 p.m. Hosted by Martin Connor, a state senator from District 25, which covers Lower Manhattan and much of the waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn from Greenpoint south to Carroll Gardens, the hearing is among the first organized by members of the governing body that is actually tasked with addressing the law. Democrats are considered likely to take control of the State Senate this fall; in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 52 percent of likely voters said they hoped Democrats would win control, compared to just 32 percent who said they wanted Republicans to retain control.