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OpinionColumnistsLiza Featherstone

4 questions for schools-chancellor hopefuls

If the answers to these queries is yes . . .

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio reaches towards

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio reaches towards outgoing New York City School Chancellor Carmen Farina in the Blue Room at City Hall Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Carmen Fariña is retiring as schools chancellor, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has interpreted mayoral control to mean he can secretly decide on a replacement without public input.

Still, understanding that many of us — including the mayor — can use help to focus on what matters, here are four questions applicants for NYC schools chancellor should be required to answer.

1. Would you stop privatization? Takeovers by the private sector in the form of charter chains run by hedge funds and private equity millionaires undermine our schools with cheap, inexperienced labor and governance by 1 percenters. Research shows that charters increase segregation and inequality. With so much policy decided at the state level, how would you work with Albany to protect our students from private operators?

2. Would you integrate one of the nation’s most segregated school systems? After decades of apathy surrounding segregation in NYC’s schools, the issue has attracted concern from media and activists. Over the past year, Fariña became more committed to elementary school rezonings, but she often disappointed about the issue. She has reduced the problem to parental choice more than policy, and in 2015, ventured that students in rich schools could become “pen pals” with those in poor schools.

3. Would you encourage the spread of progressive approaches to teaching? Researchers have found that schools with a project-based approach to learning, avoiding standardized test prep and grade pressure, have fewer discipline problems and strong academic results. NYC has more of these schools than most public school systems, and it is one of our strengths. Yet the current “progressive” administration has not done enough to support them. Whether by encouraging progressive schools, starting new ones or helping traditional schools to try such approaches, how would you scale up these successful models?

4. Have you done any of these things, even on a small scale?

If the answers to these questions is yes, and you’re willing to take this thankless job, you should be hired immediately.

Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.


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