Streams

Mayoral Control - The Deal is Done

Friday, July 24, 2009

It was a feud in which the mayor was accused or being a "dictator" and acting like he ran a "plantation." And Bloomberg called legislators' proposal for a parent training institute a "slush fund." But in the end, both sides got what they wanted.

Senate Democrats and the Bloomberg Administration finally struck a deal Friday afternoon on renewing mayoral control of the schools (or what some senators prefer to call "school governance").

The Senate will return to Albany in August and vote on the same bill the assembly passed in June. They'll also take up an amendment, which the Assembly will have to also approve at some later point. The amendment calls for:

1) A parent training center, with an annual budget of $1.6 million and run by the City University of New York.
2) An Arts Advisory Committee to make recommendations and an annual report on educational policies involving the arts.
3) Clarification of the role of local superintendents in reviewing principals.
4) Annual public meetings of each school's safety committee. The Senators had originally wanted a citywide committee that would study police in the schools. This agreement puts the focus on each individual school to do more to involve parents. Harlem Senator Bill Perkins said he still had concerns about this point, and hoped there would be more discussions.

A deal almost reached last Thursday but it blew up that night. Senate Democrats then sent the mayor a message that they wouldn't be pushed around, when they voted instead on a bill that would weaken his control of the schools. It was soundly defeated. But a handful of Democrats, including Bill Perkins, Shirley Huntley, and "four amigos" Carl Kruger, Ruben Diaz, Pedro Espada, and Hiram Monserrate continued to beat the drum by holding press conferences outside City Hall denouncing the mayor. The rhetoric heated up last Sunday with the "plantation" utterance and accusations that the mayor was comparing Senate Democrats to Nazis because he said he wouldn't pull a Neville Chamberlain by appeasing them.

Now, everyone's a winner. Majority Leader Espada (who initiated the senate coup when he temporarily switched sides to vote with Republicans, and was rewarded for switching back with a new title) issued a statement declaring the agreement "will hold Mayor Bloomberg accountable for the performance of the city's public school system, and equally important it will provide greater parental involvement in their children's education." Mayor Bloomberg said the agreement "enables progress in our schools to continue" by preserving accountability and authority. He also said "the agreement addresses concerns that have been raised by legislators in a way that makes sense." And the Campaign for Better Schools, which had fought to put more checks and balances on the mayor's power, stated that "the demand that parents and students have a voice in the schools is being met through the creation of an independent, publicly-funded parent and student outreach and training center."

In the end, sources say the Campaign for Better Schools, outgoing teachers union president Randi Weingarten, Senate leaders, and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott were able to reach a deal that saves face for everyone. Senators can claim they won respect from the mayor; and the mayor can say he preserved control of the schools with only minor changes.

Now, maybe that flood of mailings from the Bloomberg campaign about the success of mayoral control will subside a little. At least until the fall.

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Comments [2]

Ann Kjellberg

"Both sides" can only be said to have gotten what they wanted in this deal if you count only those who were already on Bloomberg's side to begin with. My side, and that of countless other public school parents, wanted a legitimate political process for our public school system that would require the mayor to openly air and defend his policies, rather the secretive and authoritarian system we have now, which, incidentally, is *not* making the educational gains the mayor claims. This outcome is another raw political victory for the mayor.

Jul. 28 2009 03:04 PM
Michael D. Markowitz, P.E.

I'm sorry. This deal may be advertised as a face-saver for the politicos, but it is an outright victory for Bloomberg and Silver -- and a cold SLAP in the face to parents by State Senators declaring "peace in our time."

Point by point:
1) Better-trained parents can be ignored as easily as less-trained parents. District 2 (Lower and Midtown Manhattan, and the UES) is proof. Meaningless.
2) I am glad to see support for the arts. But a committee ain't funding. Meaningless.
3) The role of Superintendents was clearly stated in the prior "Mayoral Control" law that expired on June 30. No matter. Klein ignored it for years. Oversight of principals was but one part. This is a gutting of the prior law's vision of a Superintendent. One step. Many were needed.
4) Police in the schools is a system-wide and policy issue. This is a cave-in. Less than meaningless.

Has the Assembly (aka Silver et al) even agreed to this 4-part Amendment? Or is part of the back-room face-saver simply a way for the Senate to say, "We tried?"

Parents vote. And we'll be voting in November while this cave-in is still fresh.

Jul. 24 2009 09:37 PM

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