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June 30, 2009
What happens when mayoral control expires: a step-by-step guide
Control of Tweed Courthouse, the Department of Education's headquarters, is in question as mayoral control expires. In the past week, we have interviewed dozens of…
June 30, 2009
Celebration for mayoral control's end draws few attendees
Only a handful of New Yorkers showed up to an afternoon-long party planned to celebrate the end of mayoral control. The seven people…
June 30, 2009
Critics of 2002 law hopeful Senate will pass a compromise bill
As Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg warn of "total chaos" and ominous "uncharted territory" if mayoral control expires tonight, another, less-frenzied possibility is emerging. The possibility hinges on the success of efforts underway right now to produce a compromise mayoral control bill in the Senate, according to a spokesman for the Campaign for Better Schools, which is pushing a compromise. A compromise would find a middle ground between the bill introduced by state Senator Frank Padavan, with the support of Mayor Bloomberg, and the one introduced by Senator John Sampson, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, who favors adding checks to the mayor's power. But it would still mean the June 30 deadline would pass without a new school governance law to replace it. That's because in order to become law, both houses of the legislature have to vote for the same bill. But a compromise bill would be different from the one the Assembly passed two weeks ago. "Our point is that schools will open up as usual tomorrow, even if mayoral control expires," said the spokesman, Shomwa Shamapande. "Let’s get the legislation right and make sure parents have a voice." Shamapande would not disclose details of the talks he said are underway, saying he does not want to jeopardize the effort. I asked him if he is confident the talks will produce a compromise. "We’re hopeful. I’m not going to go with confident," he said.
June 30, 2009
At City Hall, mayoral control is the ticking elephant in the room
The NYCLU and Sikh community members demanded protection against discrimination at a press conference this morning. They said their push could be helped if mayoral control is revised. Mayor Bloomberg refused to take questions on mayoral control at a press conference this morning, and two school-related groups staged protests outside City Hall and Tweed Courthouse without addressing the 2002 law directly. That's despite the fact that mayoral control is set to expire in 12 hours if the state Senate doesn't pass legislation today. With the Senate still locked in a court battle, chances of a resolution look dimmer by the minute — and a reconstituted Board of Education looks more and more likely. Bloomberg said he will address the small matter of the deadlocked legislature at 12:30 today, at a press conference where he will virtually appear next to Governor Paterson, who is in Albany. Meanwhile, a group including the New York Civil Liberties Union and Sikh community members demanded more protection from discrimination this morning, in a protest outside the Department of Education's Tweed Courthouse headquarters. The group accused the DOE of not enforcing a regulation that is supposed to protect children from discriminating against each other in school. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said the issue relates directly to mayoral control. The NYCLU has argued the current mayoral control law wrongly insulates the school system from following city law. "The refusal of the DOE to protect kids has to be looked at in the context of mayoral control," Lieberman told our Anna Phillips, who is at City Hall this morning. (The Assembly's version of a revised mayoral control law does not clarify whether the Department of Education must follow city law, as NYCLU advocated.)
June 30, 2009
Mayoral control critics make plans to celebrate its death
With mayoral control set to expire in just 15 hours, some are developing contingency plans. Others are planning to party. A group is planning to celebrate the end of mayoral control with a party in the park next to the Department of Education's Manhattan headquarters, beginning at the perhaps-premature hour of 4:30 p.m. The law does not expire until midnight. The event's organizer, Nicola DeMarco, told me he expects between 25 and 50 people to join him at the party, which will conclude at midnight when the group tries to symbolically evict Schools Chancellor Joel Klein from Tweed Courthouse. DeMarco has been teaching in the city since 1994 and is currently assigned to a teacher reassignment center, sometimes called "the rubber room." He said the main point of the event is for teachers and parents to share their experiences living under mayoral control. "We've all been impacted by the scorch-and-burn policy to raise test scores," he said. Below is the press announcement that I received (from multiple people) yesterday:
June 29, 2009
Either a flood of lawsuits is on the way, or none at all
The mayor and chancellor say a post-mayoral control world would be fraught with litigation. But it's not clear who would be filing the lawsuits. Some of the most obvious potential litigants said today that as long as Mayor Bloomberg follows the new law, they want to stay out of court. They say they will trust that Mayor Bloomberg plans to respect the current law's expiration if a new city school board is convened on Wednesday. That board would have only two mayoral appointees. "If the mayor acts in good faith on that measure, at least changing the structure on top, then I think its wrong to foresee any potential litigation," said Udi Ofer, the policy director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has been agnostic on the principle of mayoral control. But a DOE official said the city is worried most about litigation coming not from good-government groups but from individual teachers, principals, and vendors with gripes against the system. "Every decision has a winner and a loser, and a loser would argue that the person who made the decision didn't have the authority to do it," the official said. For example, a teacher who was fired could argue that the principal who initiated his termination was not legally appointed, the official suggested.
June 29, 2009
Sen. Sampson to mayoral control supporters: Drop dead
Mayoral control isn’t on the list of bills the Senate Democrats believe must be dealt with by tomorrow, reports Liz Benjamin. A quick reminder: Without…
June 26, 2009
City secretly renewed police control over school safety in 2003
A 1998 agreement that gives the city's police department control over school safety is still in effect, despite city officials' insistence that it had expired more than six years ago. The revelation has advocates and elected officials lambasting the city for not disclosing the agreement's extension. The original agreement, between Mayor Rudy Giuliani and then-Board of Education President William Thompson, was set to expire in 2002 and was widely assumed to have done so. But in fact, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein quietly renewed the agreement in January 2003. The renewal came to light for the first time this month, after Assemblyman Karim Camara urged his colleagues to consider school safety issues when deciding how to vote on mayoral control, according to Udi Ofer, director of advocacy for the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU was working with legislators to raise the profile of school safety in the mayoral control fight. When Camara met with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Silver showed him a copy of the memorandum's renewal, Ofer said. The paragraph-long agreement was signed by Bloomberg and Klein on Jan. 22, 2003, and does not include an expiration date. The renewal contradicts information the City Council received during a 2007 hearing on school safety, where council members repeatedly asked whether any formal document existed to define the relationship between the city schools and the police department.
June 26, 2009
Critics say DOE is overselling chaos of mayoral control expiration
The Bloomberg administration is arguing that chaos and anarchy would result if state lawmakers let mayoral control expire on June 30. But the reality of the school system prior to 2002 pokes major holes in the officials' argument. Over the last several days, Mayor Bloomberg has likened the resurrection of the pre-2002 decentralized school system to the return of the Soviet Union and has forecast widespread chaos. In a memo released today, Department of Education officials outlined how the system will become gridlocked if the law expires and the current power structure breaks down. But the department's memo rests on assumptions that people familiar with the pre-2002 governance structure picked apart in interviews today. "I think a return to the Board of Education structure would be most unfortunate because of the tension, the politics, and the lack of coordination that the structure causes," said former chancellor Harold Levy. "But it's clear to me that the mechanics of having it function would be perfectly doable provided that the Board itself was reconstituted by the borough presidents." "They're crying wolf. They're catastrophizing," said former general counsel to the Board of Education, David Bloomfield.
June 25, 2009
Possible Senate deal could bring a vote on mayoral control today
We’re five days away from the expiration of mayoral control, and there’s stronger-than-usual rumbling today that a deal is in the works to bring…
June 23, 2009
Control No. 3 on today's "basically noncontroversial" agenda
This is the memo Governor Paterson sent out listing the order of business for today's special Senate session. He's called the items "basically non-controversial." Mayoral control is No. 3, and Paterson plans to introduce a copy of the bill the Assembly passed last week — the one that Mayor Bloomberg supports, without too many "tweaks." The session starts at 3 p.m., but of course, in order to vote, the senators have to know who's in charge. And they still don't. (Postscript: Here's why people don't like the Wicks Law.) The full agenda:
June 22, 2009
Graduation rates are up and officials forecast an even rosier future
Mayor Bloomberg announced today that New York's graduation rates are on the rise for the seventh consecutive year. According to Department of Education data the city's four-year graduation rate climbed from nearly 53 percent in 2007 to over 56 percent in 2008. The nearly 4-percentage point jump refers to students who started ninth grade in 2004 and graduated in 2008. The percentage of students graduating from the city's public schools fell short of the statewide average of roughly 71 percent. But New York City's rates were higher compared to those in major cities like Buffalo and Syracuse. Calling the rate increase "dramatic," Mayor Bloomberg declared it a victory for the 2002 law that centralized the city's school governance. The law is set to sunset on June 30. "The bottom line is, all signs are pointing in the right direction," Bloomberg said. "And I think everybody understands that mayoral control really has been the key to all of this."
June 22, 2009
Stringer: City should plan for "Armageddon" schools situation
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is asking his office to craft a contingency plan for what he called an "Armageddon" scenario: the possibility that state lawmakers will not renew or revise the 2002 mayoral control law by June 30, its expiration date. In an interview with me this afternoon, Stringer urged Mayor Bloomberg to do the same thing. "Normally, I would not take seriously this notion that the legislature would not finish mayoral control, do the sales tax, whatever," Stringer told me today in a telephone interview. "But that’s before the thug and crook took control of the Senate." Stringer, himself a former Assemblyman, said that he is concerned that the Senate will not be in a position to take a vote on a renewed mayoral control law by June 30, the day the 2002 law expires. That would set the city's legal clock back to the pre-2002 days when a citywide school board had the power to appoint — and get rid of — a schools chancellor. Mayor Bloomberg has said that letting mayoral control expire would cause "riots in the streets." Asked today whether he is preparing for that scenario, Bloomberg told reporters he'd rather not think about it. "It would be a nightmare, but I just cannot conceive of it happening. And we shouldn’t waste a lot of time preparing for it," Bloomberg said. "This will get done. The public will not stand for this not getting done."
June 20, 2009
A state of frenzy with 10 days left before mayor's control expires
There are 10 days to go before mayoral control expires and one day left of the legislative session. Given the standstill at the state Senate, that equation is leaving both supporters and opponents of the mayoral control in a state of high alarm. Invariably, their panic is fueled by the complete unpredictability of the situation. No one has the answers to questions about what would happen if the Senate allowed the 2002 law to sunset, as State Senator John Sampson has threatened to allow. "If everybody goes home for the summer we've got 32 school boards on July 1. Mayoral control is over. The clock is ticking and it doesn't seem like anybody's doing anything," said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, which favors preserving mayoral control. Should the Senate pull itself together and reconvene, either by choice or by force, before the law expires, it remains unclear what kind of bill it will support. A bill has already passed the Assembly, but Sampson and other Democrats have said they want to amend that to add stricter checks to the mayor's power.
June 18, 2009
Senate Democrats seen as last hope for mayoral control critics
As the fate of New York's school governance legislation shifts to the Senate, groups advocating for language that would curb the mayor's power are left to weigh their options. Initially, many hoped that the bill passed in the Assembly would contain fixed terms for members of the Panel for Educational Policy, or would prevent the mayor from appointing the majority of the panel's members. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's bill that sailed through the Assembly on Wednesday did neither. Yet groups like the Parent Commission and the Campaign for Better Schools remain optimistic that the bill that is eventually enacted will look different. Some opponents believe that they've oddly benefited from the Senate meltdown. With the Senate Republicans saying they'll support Silver's bill, Democrats there could perceive going along with the Speaker's bill as capitulation, the opponents reason. Instead, opponents hope Democrats will seek to distance themselves from the Republican position by offering amendments to the bill.
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