Saturday, June 20, 2009
June 20, 2009
Education Panel, Forgotten, Rushes to Approve Budget
By JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ
If there was ever any question over the lack of influence wielded by the Panel for Educational Policy — a group of 13 responsible for overseeing city education matters but often ridiculed as a rubber stamp — Friday morning appeared to clear things up.
The Department of Education, it seems, forgot to get the blessing of the panel, as required by state law, before it submitted its $22.3 billion budget to the City Council.
After Patrick J. Sullivan, a Manhattan parent on the panel, pointed out the relevant statute, the city scrambled to call an emergency meeting of the panel for Friday, just hours before the expected Council vote. The public was given 54 minutes of notice.
The meeting came as the panel’s exact duties, and to what extent it should serve as a hedge against the mayor’s authority over city education policy, have become a focal point of the debate in Albany over control of city schools.
On Wednesday the State Assembly passed a bill that maintained the mayor’s power to appoint a majority of the board but slightly expanded the panel’s role by giving it oversight over contracts and school closings.
The Senate, in the midst of a leadership crisis, has not passed a bill, and some Senate Democrats have expressed a desire to reduce the mayor’s sway over the panel, to give it more teeth. Eight of the 13 members of the panel are appointed by the mayor, and despite being an oversight body, it has never rejected any of his administration’s proposals.
At 10:30 a.m., the full flock of panelists shuffled into the majestic Tweed Courthouse — a rare feat for a board that has a 75 percent average attendance rate for its mayoral appointees.
The members emerged 40 minutes later, having given the budget an 11-to-1 voice of support. But the near-unanimous result was not reached without some verbal fisticuffs.
“The folks and parents of Manhattan do not expect me to be a rubber stamp,” Mr. Sullivan told the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, who serves as the panel’s chairman. As usual, Mr. Sullivan cast the lone dissenting vote. “The borough president didn’t send me here to be a potted plant.”
Another member, Dmytro Fedkowskyj of Queens, called for the creation of a budget subcommittee, saying panel members had not mastered the subject enough to give an informed vote.
“In the ninth inning, it’s very difficult,” Mr. Fedkowskyj said, eliciting nods from other members. “A lot could have been dealt with before, so we’re not all looking like deer in the headlights.”
Mr. Klein said he never intended to hand over the budget without the panel’s signature. He had anticipated the Council would vote on the budget next week — after the panel had time to review it at its regular meeting on Tuesday, he said.
When the Council scheduled a vote this week, and legal questions about the panel’s role started to arise, the department decided to call the emergency meeting, Mr. Klein said.
“We wanted to make sure they had any action the panel would take,” Mr. Klein said of the Council, which on Friday afternoon passed the budget 50 to 1.
He noted that panel members had been given three opportunities to be briefed on the budget over the past month. “None of this is a surprise to anyone,” he said.
Faces & Places: Beep's aide to city ed panel takes his bow
BY MAXINE SIMPSON, Tuesday, May 13th 2008, 4:00 AM
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, a father of two daughters in city schools is appointed to city's Panel for Education Policy by Borough President Helen Marshall.
Borough President Helen Marshall introduced Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her new appointee to the city's Panel for Education Policy at her Parents Advisory Board's meeting.
Fedkowskyj, a native of Queens and resident of Middle Village, and his wife, Josephine, have two daughters in the public school system. He also has a 21-year-old son. The meeting was at Queens Borough Hall on May 6.