SHOULD THE MAYOR HAVE UNCHECKED CONTROL OF NYC PUBLIC SCHOOLS? - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the June 2009 Juniper Berry Magazine

SHOULD THE MAYOR HAVE UNCHECKED CONTROL OF NYC PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

Two unlicensed drivers

No! He is not an education expert. Neither is Joel Klein, the Schools Chancellor. Neither one is an educational professional.

This nation's government was formed on the now-proven principle of checks and balances. We never allow any executive to have unfettered power over any government operation. There are no good results from anyone having unchecked power. We don't want the police, the military, any investigative agency to go unleashed. We simply do not trust uncontrolled power, and, we should never trust unlimited power in the hands of a single official.

We don't trust the legislature or the judicial branch either. Frequently, we elect candidates who will likely slow down the pace of change. We all know how the system works: the executive proposes, the legislature accepts, rejects or changes the proposal. One house of the legislature forwards its version of the proposal (bill) to the other house, which accepts, rejects, or changes the bill. The final version of the bill, as agreed by both chambers is sent to the executive. There, it is accepted (signed) or rejected (vetoed). If vetoed, the legislature can let the veto sit, or, it can override it with a large number of votes.

If the proposal is finally a law, and we don't like the law, we can seek to overturn it through the judicial branch. Even here, a lower court decision can be overturned by appeals to higher courts.

This is a very simplified description of a very messy process of self-rule. We elect the members of the legislative and executive branches. The people we elect have the primary say in who governs through the judicial branch. We are our own governors.

Why should we change any of this so that one man, whose judgment is neither professional nor expert, can make decisions that will affect our children for their entire lives?

Here are just a few reasons to oppose exclusive mayoral control of NYC schools:

The Casual Indifference

Case in point: the planned construction of the high school in Maspeth on 74th Street and 58th Avenue ‒ even after knowing the site has toxic contamination, microwave antennae across the street, severe traffic congestion, and widespread opposition to the proposal;

The casual indifference ‒ disdain ‒ showed by the mayor towards the victims of the swine flu ‒ especially the unfounded remarks made regarding the assistant principal who died as a result of the swine flu;

The casual indifference ‒ disdain ‒ showed towards the children whose school bus service was ended ‒ in the winter ‒ with barely any notice;

The indifference towards the children and parents of little ones left on school buses while the driver fails to verify there are no children left on board; we read of this situation month after month without ever reading about the changes made to see that never again will any child be left on a bus, or dropped off in a strange neighborhood;

The absence of any independent audit and verification of the performance of teachers and students; instead, we have the case of having to take the word of self-interested administrators that there is any improvement to the education of youngsters in New York City;

The absence of effective checks and balances on the power of the mayor and the Department of Education employees.

The abysmal failure of the computer system (ARIS*) costing tens of millions ($80 Million +) of tax dollars to produce, which simply fails to perform its intended function: that of immediate presentation of all applicable education records for any student ‒ instead, system users must use the paperwork and phone calls to gather information for a student.

There is far too much power in the hands of a single individual. That individual and the DOE (Dept. of Education) control all the measurements we need to properly assess the success of the DOE.

No sensible manager would ever permit such self-interested assessment of accomplishment.

We need laws passed at the state level, and then at the city level to set the educational objectives and standards and to establish an independent agency (state level) to audit and assess the performance of the DOE These laws themselves and their effectiveness must be sunsetted to require periodic reauthorization and necessary change. This is far from an unusual arrangement. The reason for this forum is the fact that mayoral control will expire on June 30, 2009 or require change to improve it.

Here is an acid test: Do you truly want this mayor, or any future mayor to have the final say regarding the location or content of the education of any child in your family?

Mayor Bloomberg said on May 22nd that parents should butt out of trying to dictate educational policy as the debate over mayoral control of the schools intensifies.

You do not want parents setting educational policy. You do not want parents telling teachers how to teach. Teachers would not be happy about that, Bloomberg said on his WOR radio program.

That's what you have professionals for, he added. [Reported by DAVID SEIFMAN and CARL CAMPANILE in the May 23 NY Post]

What professionals are currently setting policy? Klein? The SCA?

When did Bloomberg concern himself with what makes teachers happy?

So much for listening to parents, taxpayers, and the citizens who hired him! So much for Consent of the governed.

* ARIS – Achievement Reporting and Innovation System. See http://www.nypost.com/seven /02272008/news/regionalnews/schools_computer_an_80m_disaster_99463.htm