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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Despite Public Outrage Against A Continuation of Mayoral Control, A Deal is Made

The rumor is that a deal has been made by Senator John Sampson and Mayor Mike Bloomberg to re-authorize Mayoral control over the NYC public school system, with the addition of a "parent training institute".

Time to say "NO thanks".

I and teacher Polo Colon are gathering people together who will stand up and oppose Mayoral control, a continuation of no-bid contracts without public input, continuation of the Panel For Educational Policy/"new" Board of Education (whatever you want to call it), Community Education Councils, and centralized power at Tweed.

Please join the new listserv and help us strategize about ending this nightmare!

Betsy Combier and Polo Colon
Coalition For School District Elections

July 25, 2009
Senate Deal Keeps Mayor in Control of Schools

After weeks of delays, negotiating and name-calling, Democrats in the New York Senate reached a deal with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Friday to renew the law giving him control over city schools.

The deal appeared to be a victory for Mayor Bloomberg, who had repeatedly assailed the legislators blocking his agenda in Albany.

The legislation would leave the mayor’s power over the school system intact, while adding some new programs, like a parent training institute and an arts advisory council.

Under the agreement, district superintendents would have more school oversight and each school would be required to hold a meeting with parents to discuss school safety and the behavior of safety officers in the schools.

City officials said they expected the Senate to return to Albany to pass the bill in early August. Senate leaders were more elusive, saying only that they expected to return before the new school year begins in September.

The Legislature transferred management of the city’s schools from the Board of Education to the mayor in 2002, setting June 30, 2009, as the date his control would expire if it was not renewed. The Assembly did so last month.

But a power crisis in the Senate allowed mayoral control to expire, and then several powerful Democrats in the Senate demanded additions to the Assembly bill.

Once the Senate passes the bill, making it law, it will amend it to include the conditions agreed to on Friday. The Assembly would then have to pass the same amendments for them to take effect.

The changes are relatively minor and will do little to temper the mayor’s control. There were no provisions, for example, requiring that the schools chancellor have an education degree, and members of the Panel for Educational Policy, the school oversight board, were not given fixed terms, as Mr. Bloomberg’s harshest critics had sought.

The Department of Education and City Hall officials were careful not to gloat on Friday; they said the changes would not dramatically alter the way the system is run.

Perhaps the biggest change is a provision, already passed by the Assembly, requiring that the Panel for Educational Policy approve all no-bid contracts, as well as any contracts that exceed $1 million. The city will also be required to hold hearings before it shuts down underperforming schools.

The mayor issued a statement saying that the agreement “enables progress in our schools to continue.”

“It preserves the accountability and authority necessary to ensure that the gains we’ve made — in math and reading scores, graduation rates and school safety — continue,” he said.

The agreement will allocate about $3 million to the City University of New York for the next two years to create a parent training center in each of the five boroughs. Officials said there had been no discussions about who would lead the center or how it would work.

Billy Easton, the director of the Campaign for Better Schools, which had pushed for the center, said it would focus on training parents to make school-based leadership teams and community education councils more effective.

The deal came less than a week after Mr. Bloomberg railed against several senators, calling them “meshugeneh” (Yiddish for crazy); in response, Senator Bill Perkins of Harlem accused the mayor of “treating us like we’re some people on his plantation.”

But negotiations between the Senate and City Hall — led by John L. Sampson, the Democratic conference leader, and Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott — continued throughout the week.

Even as final details were being ironed out, several senators gathered at the steps of City Hall on Thursday to criticize the mayor.

Senator Hiram Monserrate called him the “Bernie Madoff” of education and others insisted they would not be bullied into agreement.

Yet the most vociferous critics of Mr. Bloomberg were far more subdued on Friday. Several senators said that while they did not wholeheartedly agree with the deal, they understood that a deal had been reached.

Senator Monserrate, as he was leaving a meeting about the legislation on Friday, said, “The mayor can really be a mensch when he wants to be.”

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