The debate over mayoral control of NYC’s public schools is a tired one, full of politics and posturing, and lacking a real effort to improve the schools themselves.
Yes, mayoral control should remain in place, preferably for more than one year, because it’s too disruptive and unnecessary to have this conversation every year.
But the discussion over whether to renew mayoral control isn’t a serious one. It’s about the political push and pull between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the distaste State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has for the mayor, and the outsized influence of the teachers union, which wants to block any expansion of charter schools.
All of that has turned the issue into a bargaining chip.
The State Senate isn’t likely to allow mayoral control to lapse if it means returning to the dysfunctional, centralized Board of Education. Meanwhile, de Blasio’s education policies, and his ability to execute them, won’t change whether he gets one year of mayoral control, or two or three or seven — his opportunity to act and to reform and improve the city’s public schools is the same. He needs to stop focusing on the years of control he gets and start focusing on his job: improving the public schools. And educational opportunities should improve for all students in one of the most segregated school systems in the nation.
Until every child has these opportunities, the mayor should abandon his opposition to charter schools. And in return, GOP lawmakers shouldn’t use mayoral control as leverage to get other things they want, including more charter schools.
By the time the Albany legislative session ends next week, De Blasio will get some version of a renewal of mayoral control. Do something with it: physical education classes, air conditioning, more community schools, further investments in technology and accessibility. Put a sharper focus on failing schools.
There are 1.1 million schoolchildren and their families depending on him. Make the system better and no one would dare challenge his ability to control the system.