Beth Fertig is the contributing editor for education, covering the New York City public school system for WNYC on air and online at SchoolBook.org. She has covered education in the city for more than 15 years. Beth is the author of Why cant u teach me 2 read? Three Students and a Mayor Put Our Schools to the Test (FSG Books) which grew out of a radio series on the low graduation rate for special education students. Follow her @bethfertig.
Bloomberg Reveals (Some) Contingency Plans
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
With time running out for the Senate to renew the law giving him control of the schools, Mayor Bloomberg says he's reaching out to the five borough presidents in case the old board of education needs to be reconstituted.
Bloomberg joined a surreal press conference in Albany, via video feed, with Governor Paterson and legislative leaders.
He again urged all 62 Senators to come together and pass the same bill the Assembly already passed, reauthorizing mayoral control of the schools. He also urged voters to call their lawmakers to add some pressure. And he warned that if mayoral control expires "come tomorrow, the lawyers take over" because personnel and policy issues would all be subject to litigation and uncertainty.
But for the first time he also hinted at his backup plans.
Bloomberg vowed that summer school would open tomorrow, regardless of what happens in Albany. He said Joel Klein would remain on as chancellor because he has a contract. He said he's been reaching out to the borough presidents, who would have to pick five members of a seven-member board of education. The mayor would pick two members. He acknowledged it would be tougher to deal with recreating the 32 community school boards, which ran the local districts before mayoral control.
"We're not going to fail our children," he stated.
Governor Paterson said he would commit any state resources necessary to help keep the schools open.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats consider mayoral control too "controversial" to include on their today's to-do list. Brooklyn Senator John Sampson, who heads the Democratic conference, blamed Senate Republicans for derailing progress on school governance. However, the Democrats are also divided. Sampson wants to amend the bill the Assembly passed to include more of a role for parents. And he says he's not alone.
"Members of our conference have real concerns which should be discussed and addressed before passage of this legislation. We have a mandate from our constituents to represent their interests and reasonably negotiate an agreement that will serve our students, parents, and community.”
“We may have different opinions on School Governance, but we are firmly opposed to Mayoral Control of the Senate. We recognize the deadline and invite Mayor Bloomberg to join us in Albany to discuss options for moving this important legislation forward.”