Editorial: Don't weaken mayoral control of NYC schools
Can there be a worse idea? The United Federation of Teachers wants to strip the mayor of control over city schools. If this is a trial balloon, it has all the appeal of the airship Hindenburg.
The union is floating a plan that would cut mayoral appointees on the Panel for Educational Policy from eight of 13 members to five, giving one appointment each to the City Council speaker, city comptroller and public advocate.
The plan would also limit mayoral power to pick a chancellor by requiring the mayor to choose from a list of three candidates that the panel submits.
The last time control of the schools was split among warring political tribes, school leaders couldn't say how many employees the system had. It took years to fix window casings that leaked in the rain and snow. Principalships were sometimes up for sale. Patronage was rife, school headquarters hid budget numbers from City Hall and social promotions were the rule.
Almost 11 years into mayoral control, the system still has a long way to go. When the current school governance law expires in 2015, the legislature should fine-tune it by giving parents a greater voice in the education of their children and a stronger say in the closure of neighborhood schools.
But finding the right way to do that requires a delicate touch within a bureaucracy of 1,700 schools, 1.1 million students and 73,000 teachers. Simply stripping the mayor of control isn't the answer, and the UFT's desire to make that happen -- this year or in 2015 -- is self-serving.
The schools are showing slow but measurable progress now. In 2011, the system graduated more than 65 percent of its high school students in four years. If that doesn't sound like much to brag about, please understand that this represents a 19-point increase since 2005.
Among the current crop of mayoral candidates, only Democratic city Comptroller John Liu is on record so far in support of the UFT plan. He should rethink that.
The UFT essentially ran the school system before the legislature instituted mayoral control in 2002. The result was a flaming disaster. Who wants to go back to that?