Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg at PS/MS 15 in the Bronx announcing rise in math scores. Almost 82 percent of city elementary and middle school students met the statewide standards in 2009, a gain of 7.5 points over last year.
Mayor Bloomberg looked practically giddy as he announced that almost 82 percent of city students met or exceeded state standards on this year's math tests. This puts city children within shouting distance of their counterparts in the rest of the state. In the rest of the state, not counting the city, about 89 percent of students met the standards. The mayor also noted that the achievement gap had narrowed between both black and Hispanic students and their white counterparts.
But Bloomberg wasn't the only one smiling. As usual at these 'good news' announcements, the mayor was joined by the heads of the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators for a press conference at PS/MS 15 in the Bronx. As the mayor shared credit with the teachers and principals for the rising test scores under his watch, they bestowed a little love in return by making some of their strongest statements to date about their support for continuing mayoral control of the city schools. The 2002 state law that put Bloomberg in charge expires at the end of the month and lawmakers are debating whether to renew it. Most support continuing it with a few adjustments.
Previously, the teachers union had called for weakening mayoral control by taking away the mayor's majority on the Panel for Educational Policy, which he now controls with 8 out of 13 appointees. But UFT President Randi Weingarten shifted gears a couple of weeks ago and today she credited mayoral control with making the school system more stable, and for paying her members a more competitive wage. When asked by WNYC if she favors keeping the current structure, she called for "some bottom to top accountability, some checks and balances, and some transparency." But she added, "I think what you’ve all seen is that there’s a real good dialogue going on in Albany about how to accomplish those things. At the end of the day, before June 30th, I would be shocked if there was not a system of mayoral control in place with some changes that both the Mayor and the legislature and the Governor can live with so that we can go and move forward."
Ernest Logan, who heads the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, had always supported keeping mayoral control with some adjustments. He agreed with Weingarten on the need for more transparency and a way to give parents more input. But he said, "When you have one person in charge, you don’t get this finger-pointing that we used to have."
Asked whether he expected a legislative solution he could live with, Bloomberg said "there's nothing wrong with checks and balances, the state legislature can always go and change things." But he added that "accountability means accountability."
Bloomberg also seemed grateful to have the two union leaders on board with mayoral control. "I'm going to have an extra drink at dinner tonight," he said.