mayoral control

New York

DOE contract investigation renews attention on PEP's role

Reports that a Department of Education technology contractor improperly stole millions of dollars from the city are returning attention to the way the school system reviews contracts. Building more oversight over contracts was one of the goals of the reauthorized mayoral control law passed by state lawmakers in 2009. The law handed review power of contracts to the Panel for Educational Policy, the citywide school board controlled by the mayor. But since 2009, several panel members have complained that they lack the information necessary to review contracts before approving them, making their oversight authority meaningless. In the case of the contract with Future Technology Associates, the firm accused of fraud yesterday by the city schools investigator, panel members had less than a day to review detailed information about the contract before voting on it in September 2009, according to email messages obtained by GothamSchools. Officials shared the information in response to a request by the Manhattan representative on the panel, Patrick Sullivan. The contract came up for a renewal vote at the first meeting of the PEP after the mayoral control reauthorization. In an email to Sullivan the day of the meeting, department General Counsel Michael Best cited reauthorization as motivating school officials to prepare more thorough background materials. Sullivan, an opponent of the Bloomberg administration's education policies, responded that those materials — which included a draft agreement between the city and Future Technology Associates — were not sufficient. He said that a day to review them was not enough time.
New York

We read Steven Brill’s “Class Warfare” so you don’t have to

New York

Bloomberg's resurrected panel is a mix of old and new

The citywide board that became a hotly-debated issue in the fight over mayoral control is back with a mixture of old and new faces. Mayor Bloomberg announced his eight appointees to the Panel for Educational Policy on WOR Radio's The John Gambling Show this morning. Of the people he named to the board, four will return to their previous positions, while the other four will join the panel for the first time. Bloomberg said that the new panel will complete the process of restoring mayoral control. "It is the last step in re-establishing the school governance that has led to all of these improvements over the past seven years," he told Gambling. The newly-formed panel will not be an exact replica of the previous one, but the changes are more modest than some had hoped. Going into this summer's school governance fight, critics who charged that the PEP was little more than a rubber stamp for the mayor's policies had hoped to give members fixed terms and to prevent the mayor from appointing the majority of its members. Though neither of those changes happened, the new panel will have some increased oversight of things like contracts and school utilization. The mayor's appointees have close ties to his administration. One new PEP member, Gitte Peng, spent five years as a senior education policy adviser to Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis Walcott. Peng helped craft the original school governance legislation that consolidated the mayor's control of the schools. Walcott briefly served as president of the Board of Education this summer before mayoral control was reauthorized. Bloomberg said today that Peng's appointment would permit Walcott's presence "live on" at the board.
New York

Senators agree to reinstate mayoral control before school starts

After several hours of heated discussions, Democratic state senators emerged from a meeting today declaring that they had reached an agreement with Mayor Bloomberg on mayoral control. Standing outside of 250 Broadway, where a dozen of the city's senators met and others listened in by phone, Democratic conference leader John Sampson said, "One thing you can say today is, we have an agreement with respect to school governance." Senators cautioned that the deal's language has yet to be finalized on paper, but what they described mirrors an earlier agreement that fell apart last week. Today's agreement would add extra checks to a mayoral control bill passed by the Assembly, including a parent training center based out of CUNY, an increased supervisory role for superintendents, and a new citywide arts panel. According to a statement released by Sen. Carl Kruger's office, the deal also includes the creation of a Senate subcommittee to oversee the Department of Education. "All's well that ends well," said outgoing UFT president Randi Weingarten, who said that she has been acting as a "go-between" for the two sides, spending Thursday night on the phone helping to broker today's deal. A spokeswoman for the mayor's office, Dawn Walker, released a statement saying: The agreement "preserves the accountability and authority necessary to ensure that the gains we've made — in math and reading scores, graduation rates and school safety — continue. At the same time, the agreement addresses concerns that have been raised by legislators in a way that makes sense." Sens. Sampson and Pedro Espada were vague about when they would return to Albany to pass the Assembly's mayoral control bill. Espada said it would happen "before children start school in September." But Walker's statement sets the date as the first week of August.