Editorial: Improve mayoral control of schools, don't end it
More than a decade after Albany gave control of city schools to the mayor, nearly everyone has a strong bill of complaint against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Department of Education. Some of these broadsides make sense.
"Our system is being run by technocrats and business people, not educators, not parents," says West Side City Council candidate Noah Gotbaum.
It's time to create "a world-class school system where all students succeed" -- with a stronger emphasis on arts, physical education and community, says A-plus NYC, a coalition of citywide grassroots groups.
OK. But how? With a return to community school districts run by their own local boards? Please. The last time that was tried, the State Legislature threw the system into a shambles for three decades.
By reversing the mayor's powerful 8-to-5 majority on the Panel for Educational Policy -- the successor to the old Board of Education -- and handing him (or her) a 5-to-8 minority of appointees instead?
The United Federation of Teaches likes that idea. But we've been there and done that. Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, who is endorsed by the UFT, has said he would keep mayoral control. But he has also said he'd give the mayor six appointees -- a minority -- on the 13-member panel. That's not mayoral control.
Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker, and an ally of Bloomberg, backs mayoral control. But she's also been trying to distance herself from the mayor. And Democrat John Liu says mayoral control hasn't worked well.
So the heart of the 2002 school reform law could be up for grabs. Lost in the din are the strong gains made under that law. In 2002, just 37 percent of pupils in grades three through eight met math standards. Today 60 percent do. The four-year dropout rate has been nearly halved.
It's easy to condemn a system that's less parent-friendly than we'd like. But the question the candidates must answer is: How do we fix this problem without wrecking the system's crucial-but-fragile progress?