School Governance in NYC: A Step Closer
School Governance in NYC: A Step Closer
Governor Hochul, in her 2022 Preliminary Executive Budget included a four-year extension of Mayoral Control in New York City. The legislature flexed their muscles and rolled back the ability of the governor to include non-budgetary issues in the budget (2001 NYS Court of Appeals approved the process in a number of decisions, See Pataki v Silver here). The 2002 Mayoral Control law has a sunset provision, if the law is not extended, or revised by June 30th, the law sunsets, meaning reverts to the prior law: a seven member Board of Education, one member selected by each borough president and two by the mayor. The law was extended effortlessly under Bloomberg’s mayoralty, and, with more difficulty under de Blasio.
While both houses of the legislature opposed mayoral control in 2022 there was no consensus on a new governance structure, I. e., an elected board, an appointed board and if so by whom, the role of parents, the role of the mayor, with the legislative clock ticking the legislature punted.
Pursuant to Chapter 364 of the Laws of 2022, the New York State Education Department shall conduct a comprehensive review and assessment of the overall effectiveness of mayoral control of New York City schools. All members of the public—including students, parents, teachers, school administrators and staff, and individuals with experience and expertise in education policy and school governance—are invited to provide feedback on their experiences, assessments, and/or review of the mayoral control system of New York City schools.
CHAPTER 364 Relates to governance of community school districts in the city of New York; representatives for education of students with disabilities; directs the commissioner of education to examine, evaluate, and make recommendations to the legislature and the governor on school governance in the city of New York. Mayor.
The commissioner (Betty Rosa) will “examine, evaluate and make recommendations to the legislature and the governor …”
Will the “recommendations” reflect the testimony of the hundreds of speakers at the public hearings?
In her 2024 Preliminary Budget the governor once again added a four-year extension and once again the legislature is moving to amend the law pursuant to Chapter 364 of the Laws of 2022 State Education and is holding hearings in each borough.
On Thursday I arrived early at Fashion Industries High School on 24th Street, I was #16 on a long list of speakers, three minutes each. The speakers who preceded me were all teachers or parents and teachers who were also parents
.On the stage Lester Young, the Chancellor, the leader of the seventeen member Board of Regents, Commissioner Betty Rosa, Shinzo Tanakawa, the Manhattan Regent and Luis Torres, an at-large member, in the audience Shelly Mayer, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, John Liu, the Chair of the NYC Senate Education Committee, Gale Brewer, City Council and a number of other electeds and about 200 others. My written comment was far longer than three minutes, I posted online (See here) and instead of trying to rush through I asked the audience to raise their hand if the supported extending mayor control.
No hands were raised. Nada, no one.
A quick look on how is the education system in other large cities managed?
Los Angeles has an elected, salaried, staffed board
Chicago is moving from mayoral control to an elected board
Boston debating whether to return to an elected school committee.
The legislative session ends June 5th and the Assembly, and Senate and the Governor have to come to an agreement, or allow the current law to sunset, meaning revert to the previous law, a seven member board, one member appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor; the governance structure from 1971 to 2002.
What are the options in New York City? We could mirror Los Angeles and Chicago and begin the phase-in of an elected board, maybe rank choice voting, the method used to elect school boards under decentralization. Would the wealthiest candidates dominate the elections? Would Bloomberg endorsed candidates dominate the new board?
Perhaps representatives of electeds and local CECs: borough presidents, the city council, CEC members would be a majority, and, a minority of mayoral appointees. Or, maybe all parent members, btw, would the “new” board make better choices or wrangle endlessly. The board selects a chancellor, who runs the school system and the board sets policy, although policy and operations commonly conflict. Would the board function by political deal-making?
Chancellors currently set policy and expect the acolytes will salute and implement, although the message is commonly befogged as it make its way to classrooms. The current chancellor has surrounded himself with bureaucrats making 200K plus a year. See a wonderful NY Times column here.
I believe the best educational decisions are made by those closest to classrooms, teachers, school leaders and a collaborative superintendent. Norm Fruchter eloquently wrote,
The problem is not simply how to equitably frame the mayor’s ability to govern the city’s education system. In all our city’s public service bureaucracies, the interests and needs of users and stakeholders are not represented or structured into useful forms of participation. Because the schooling of the city’s students matters so intensely to students, their families, teachers and administrators, education policy issues will always be intensely contested. What we need are new participatory structures to engage and integrate that contestation and shape more representative and equitable policy solutions
In the final years of the Bloomberg reign the school system was divided into Affinity Districts, clusters of self-selected collaborative schools.
Norm Fruchter wrote a brilliant examination of the Affinity District model; unfortunately de Blasio chose a friend as chancellor who moved back to the geographic district, superintendent, all-powerful chancellor structure.
Is there an educator out there who agrees? One size does not fit all, teachers and school leaders really do know what is best for the children they teach, and parents can be meaningful partners in the school level decision-making process.
I suspect John Liu, a state senator from Queens, former NYC Comptroller and 2013 candidate for mayor and chair of the NYC Senate Education Committee will be the key player. I’ve met Liu a number of times, usually at a friend of mine’s Passover Seder, he dropped by for her mother’s chicken soup.
Some years ago I met a group of teachers from Denmark and I asked how they deal with Special Education children, they were confused by the term, when I said children with disabilities they replied, “We do what is necessary to address the needs of the children.”
Maybe a chancellor exchange program with Denmark?
The Wire: Powered by Educators of NYC is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.