Silver: Fixed terms on school panel is ‘fake issue’

By Josh Rogers

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told Downtown Express Friday he was open to fixed terms for the educational board overseeing the mayor’s management of the schools.

Albany is now debating legislation to renew the seven-year-old law giving the mayor control of the school system. Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have opposed fixed terms on the Panel for Educational Policy because they say it will handcuff their ability to make changes, and would end the clear lines of accountability.

Silver said: “That’s a fake issue…. I don’t believe it matters.”

He said even under the old system, the mayor was still able to use “political machinations” to get what he wanted.

“When the mayor didn’t have control, he had control of the Board of Education,” Silver said. “Go ask [former Chancellor] Rudy Crew, go ask the borough presidents in Queens how many times they fired their representatives on the board because they made a deal with the mayor….

“Nobody ever became chancellor unless the mayor wanted them, nobody ever stayed chancellor unless the mayor wanted them,” the speaker said in a 30-minute interview with Downtown Express editors and reporters June 5.

Silver is not yet backing fixed terms for the P.E.P., but other Assembly and State Senate Democrats are in favor of it. The current law is set to expire at the end of the month and negotiations are continuing. All along, Silver has said he favors “tweaking” the old law to let the mayor remain in charge, while giving parents a stronger voice and adding more transparency over issues like school contracts.

City Hall has signaled a willingness to negotiate on all of those issues with the exception of fixed terms. Silver, who helped craft the original law with Bloomberg back in 2002, said he would relent on fixed terms provided the mayor gave parents a stronger role in local school decisions and made superintendents more accountable to parents.

“I’m willing to trade with the mayor on fixed terms to get beef at the school level, at the district level,” Silver said.

He said he wants to “make sure you don’t have to stand on the steps of City Hall in order to make your thought as a parent heard about what’s wrong with your child’s education.”

The mayor currently has eight of the 13 appointees to the P.E.P. – the borough presidents have the others – and Silver said this gives the mayor insurance in case an appointee defies City Hall.

“He doesn’t need all 8 – he needs seven,” Silver said. “I went through that issue with [Bloomberg] seven years ago.”

Some legislators, education advocates and Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan have suggested going further by taking away most of the mayor’s power. Under this alternative, an independent board would select the chancellor, and most appointments would not be made by the mayor.

A spokesperson for the Dept. of Education, which succeeded the Board of Ed. declined to comment on Silver’s remarks.



douglas June 6th, 2009 at 9:25 AM

It is absolutely ridiculous that PANYJY would not use their dwindling resources to finance speculative office buildings instead of providing transportation for the NY/NJ area since the transportation system works so well.

Arnie June 5th, 2009 at 10:21 PM

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Dr. Remick June 5th, 2009 at 7:51 PM

Finally a solution to this mess is in sight. Bravo to Silver and the Mayor for pushing this forward. Its been 8 long years and we have waited long enough. Of course we need to build these buildings now – by the time they open, the economy will be back and NY will once again be the capital of the world. Typical for the Port Authority to refuse to budge – what is the matter with these people? Haven’t they screwed up the WTC enough already?