Administration Negotiates Amendments to Mayoral Control
Mayor Mike Bloomberg said people would riot in the streets if Mayoral control was allowed to sunset on June 30. He demanded Governor Paterson dispatch state troopers to drag Democratic senators by the scruff of their necks, kicking and screaming, back to Albany to rubber stamp the Padavan/ Silver version of renewing Mayoral control of NYC schools. He said allowing the law to sunset would usher in a Soviet-style return of the Board of Education. He said he wanted the Assembly version voted into law as is, without changing a comma or period. Mayor Bloomberg made his position clear.
Faced with a determined Democratic majority Senate and increasing pressure from parents and advocacy groups, the Bloomberg administration agreed, in principle, to changes to school governance.
The agreement comprised of four major provisions designed to increase parental input, promote enhanced arts education, address concerns relating to school safety procedures, and strengthen the oversight role of the community superintendents.
Parent Training Centers would be in each of the five boroughs. Centrally located in CUNY colleges, the centers would increase the capacity of parents to participate and engage in the educational system through training and support programs. An Arts Advisory Council would advise and make recommendations on educational policy involving arts education. Under a renewed school governance law, the role of superintendents in supervising principals would be clarified, and include quality of curriculum and instruction as part of superintendent review of principals. Each school would be required to conduct public meetings at least annually, open to parents, to discuss safety concerns including matters related to school safety officers.
Potential changes in procurement procedures were not listed in the agreement between the Bloomberg administration and legislators.
The agreement was announced soon after a rally at City Hall attended by hundreds of parents. A coalition of state senators were joined by the parents who filled the steps of City Hall, calling for parental involvement in the City’s education system.
“Worse case scenario: In September, the schools will open under the old Board of Education system. If that happens, it will be Bloomberg’s fault,” State Senator Carl Kruger said last Thursday afternoon. “In the world of Michael Bloomberg, once he makes a decision, he is totally inflexible.”
Kruger was referring to Bloomberg’s assertions that Mayoral control should be renewed, now. Kruger quoted Bloomberg: “He said ‘Don’t change a comma; don’t change a period.’ Well, we are going to change a comma; a period. We are going to change the import of what that law is.”
Pedro Espada commended the Assembly on moving the public conversation forward to increased oversight and parental involvement of city schools. He referenced U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor by reminding listeners that every time you see her, Sotomayor credits her mother with her educational success. “The role of parents in education is basic; parents and grandparents should be engaged. They should be involved in budgeting, hiring of staff — including principals and asst. principals, and curriculum. Education belongs to all of us,” said Espada, “Education should be centered on children and parents.”
Sen. Shirley Huntley said everywhere she goes, parents ask for help. “They feel left out of the system, and they are.”
Sen. Diaz reminded everyone he called for the resignation of Chancellor Klein 2 years ago, pointing out the latest no-bid contract to a company with a Florida P.O. Box as its mailing address and a Brooklyn residence as its business address. “If we in the state were assigning no-bid contracts to friends, you (in the media) would call for an investigation,” Diaz said, “Why are you not calling for an investigation here?”
Kruger said “Parental empowerment is missing in action.” He then outlined the no-bid contract situation, including 291 no-bid contracts totaling $340.5 million, some of which had serious discrepancies. “A city agency has to answer to the comptroller. We are entitled to know where the dollars are spent,” Kruger said. “This has the makings of another Enron.”
Sen. Adams said, the DOE uses “Bernie Madoff math,” then emphatically said, “We are not going to pass a bill that does not include parental involvement.”
Bill Perkins said the obvious, “The Mayor has stepped on the third rail – parents.” Regarding the move towards amended school governance legislation, Perkins said the state Senate” will not be dictated to; we will be negotiated with.”
State Sen. Sampson was supposed to be at that press conference. Apparently he was in closed door negotiations with Dennis Walcott, Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Involvement and other stakeholders.
State Senators plan to return to Albany before schools open to vote on renewal of the school governance law and its amendments. To be continued…