Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Sunday, March 31, 2013

New York City Supports Businesses That Violate Labor Law

The City of New York loves to violate the law, and support those businesses that violate the law.
....least that's the way it looks to me.


Workers protested outside the Sixth Avenue Car Wash in February.

MARCH 28, 2013, 9:30 AM

City Has Financial Ties to Carwashes Under Investigation, Report Says

The owners of a string of carwashes with a history of labor law violations and who are under investigation by the state attorney general’s office are paid by the city to clean city-owned cars, according to a new report.
Using publicly available documents, the report shows that the city has paid more than $400,000 to businesses operated by the carwash owners, John Lage and Fernando Magalhaes, since 2007. That amount includes money to wash Police Department vehicles.
In 2005, the federal Department of Labor sued a company owned by Mr. Lage, Lage Management Corporation, accusing the company of violating labor law by failing to pay minimum wage and overtime. The corporation eventually agreed to pay $4.7 million in back wages and damages to more than 1,300 employees.
In March 2012, the state attorney general’s office announced that it had started a separate investigation into labor law violations at 23 carwashes in the New York City area owned or operated by Mr. Lage and Mr. Magalhaes. The investigation is continuing.
Carwash workers across the country have long complained about unlawful abuse, including nonpayment, underpayment, insufficient safety training and unsafe conditions. In March 2012, city carwash workers began a campaign to unionize the approximately 200 carwashes in the five boroughs. Since then, employees at five carwashes have voted to unionize.
Three groups have led the unionization campaign and produced the report: Make the Road New York; New York Communities for Change; and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The report has not been publicly released.
Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor, said that the city should “immediately take action and reconsider doing business with them.”
Dennis Lalli, a lawyer for Mr. Lage, defended his client’s practices, noting that Mr. Lage recently raised workers’ wages, and “now pays well in excess of the state minimum wage for tipped employees,” which is $5.50 an hour.
“The city does business with Mr. Lage’s carwashes because he does a good job,” said Mr. Lalli, who also represents Mr. Magalhaes. “Those who say that the city should stop doing business with Mr. Lage do not have evidence of labor law violations. They aren’t out to advance the workers’ interests. Rather, they are a front for a labor union that seeks to advance its own interest in collecting dues from the employees’ hard-earned pay.”
Other agencies that have paid for services from businesses owned by Mr. Lage and Mr. Magalhaes include the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development; the Department of Sanitation; the Department of Homeless Services; and the Department of Transportation. The information is available on, a city Web site that lists some, but not all, transactions that the city makes with outside vendors.
Hector Gomez, 24, began working at the Sixth Avenue Car Wash in Greenwich Village, which was owned by Mr. Lage and Mr. Magalhaes, five years ago. He was paid $5.50 an hour, never received safety training and was never offered protections like gloves or masks, he said. “We washed 50 or 40 police cars each day,” he said. “The white ones, the black ones, every kind. Of course it didn’t feel good, the cars come in, many cars, and we’re not even earning minimum wage.” After workers at his carwash voted to form a union, his salary was raised to $6.03 an hour.
When the Sixth Avenue Car Wash shut down earlier this year, he was transferred to another carwash in Queens. “All I want is for them to pay us the minimum wage,” he said, “for them to give us regular days to rest.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

Privacy, FERPA and Student Records - What's The Answer?

Valerie Strauss: On the Question of Student Privacy


dataEarlier this month I wrote a post about
a lawsuit against the U.S. Education
Department that charges the agency with
promoting regulations that undercut student
privacy and parental consent. The suit was
filed some time ago by the nonprofit Electronic 
Privacy Information Center over 2011 regulations involving the Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act, also known as FERPA, a law that
is supposed to protect the privacy of student
education records at all schools that receive
federal education funds.
The lawsuit argues that 2011 regulations issued
by the department changed FERPA in a way
that effectively allows more individuals and both private and public entities to have
access to sensitive student records. Third parties already could get student data from
school districts and state education agencies under certain conditions under rules
finalized in 2008.
The issue has gained attention because of a new $100 million database built in
large part with Gates Foundation money that holds detailed files on millions of 
schoolchildren and that is being run by a new nonprofit called inBloom. Critics
fear that private information in the database will be given to private third parties
in part because of the 2011 regulations.
But inBloom counsel Steve Winnick says that critics are misinterpreting the 2011
FERPA regulations. Following is a piece he wrote about the issue. Winnick is
senior counsel   at EducationCounsel LLC, and has significant experience working
on FERPA issues as the former deputy general counsel of the U.S. Department of
Education and at EducationCounsel.
By Steve Winnick
Since the launch of non-profit inBloom earlier this month, there has been much
discussion regarding the privacy and use of student data and the role of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In particular, the 2011 FERPA
regulatory amendments were discussed in Valerie Strauss’ earlier post. She has given
us the opportunity to address some misunderstanding about inBloom’s service and its compliance with FERPA.
Technology needs to do a better job helping teachers and parents with the important mission of educating our children. inBloom is working to make it easier for teachers, parents, and students themselves to see a coherent picture of student progress and
give parents more options to be involved in their children’s education.
Data-driven instructional technology has been available in classrooms for over a
decade. School districts that purchase these systems are burdened with the expense
and complexity of connecting these tools to the systems they already have. inBloom
eases this burden by providing a secure service to help school districts manage their instructional data. Only school districts can make decisions about how information
about students can be used.
As an example, one of the inBloom pilot districts has implemented over 30 different
online learning systems. The time it takes for a teacher to login and download results
from each of these tools steals time from their busy day and makes it difficult to have important conversations about student learning with parents. With inBloom, districts
can provide teachers and parents with better instructional tools and the information
they need to help students succeed.
The disclosure of student records to the inBloom data services is allowed by two different provisions in FERPA. The first provision allows schools to disclose student records to school officials with a legitimate educational interest in the records, including private contractors hired by a school district, when the student records are needed to provide the contracted 
services. This applies to inBloom, which is contracted by school districts to provide technology services for school administrators and teachers. USED spelled out rules authorizing disclosure of student records to school district contractors in 2008 (see section 99.31(a)(1)(B)); however, this type of disclosure was consistently allowed long before it was codified in 2008 (for example, see this 2004 USED advisory opinion).
The second FERPA provision allows disclosures of student records to authorized representatives of state or local education officials for the purpose of evaluating, auditing or complying with federal- or state-supported education programs. This is not the primary purpose of inBloom, but is a secondary benefit of states’ participation in inBloom.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, many people have misinterpreted the 2011 USED regulations. Prior to 2011, FERPA did not allow state or local education agencies to designate non-education state agencies (for example, the state workforce agency) as authorized representatives for evaluating public education programs. Anyone evaluating these programs had to be “under the direct control” of a state or local education agency, i.e. “an employee or contractor,” as stated in a 2003 directive from the Department.
As explained in the preamble to the 2011 regulations (page 75616), USED through those regulations reversed that interpretation and began allowing education agencies to designate any entity—including other state agencies—to assist in the evaluation of education programs, and to receive student records for that purpose. In other words, other state and local agencies could now assist the education department—and access student records for that purpose— in the same way that outside contractors could.
Even more importantly, the 2011 regulations do not in any way affect the 2008 regulations that permit disclosures of student data to private contractors to perform educational services for a school district (under significant conditions), which relates to the core mission of inBloom.
inBloom’s work with states and districts fully complies with the law, with or without the 2011 regulations. inBloom has adopted data privacy and security protections that meet the highest industry standards, exceed FERPA requirements, and are designed to ensure that student data are used only for agreed-upon education purposes and not further disclosed.
inBloom is committed to protecting the privacy and security of student records while helping states and school districts to more effectively use student data for legitimate educational purposes, in particular to provide a more customized education for all of our children. FERPA historically has been the subject of multiple myths that get in the way of effectively using data for these critical educational objectives. It is important that there be an accurate public understanding of what FERPA means and how it is being

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NYC: Say No To Christine Quinn For Mayor

NYC does not need Mayor Bloomberg's fourth term candidate

Offstage, a Proudly Brash Quinn Isn’t Afraid to Let Her Fury Fly

Christine C. Quinn was not pleased.
A session of the New York City Council had descended into chaos, and lawmakers were openly questioning her leadership. Ms. Quinn, the Council speaker, decided there was one person to blame: Betsy Gotbaum, then the city’s public advocate, who had been presiding.
The response was sudden and fierce. Ms. Quinn summoned Ms. Gotbaum to an office nearby and, with little warning, began shouting at her in increasingly angry tones about appearing weak in front of other lawmakers.
“You were like Bambi in there!” Ms. Quinn exclaimed, slamming her hand on a table for emphasis, according to Ms. Gotbaum, who was on crutches at the time.
Ms. Gotbaum was stunned. “I didn’t merit that kind of unprofessional behavior,” she said recently.
As she pursues a high-profile bid for mayor, Ms. Quinn, a Democrat, has proudly promoted her boisterous personality, hoping that voters will embrace her blend of brashness and personal charm.
But in private, friends and colleagues say, another Ms. Quinn can emerge: controlling, temperamental and surprisingly volatile, with a habit of hair-trigger eruptions of unchecked, face-to-face wrath.
She has threatened, repeatedly, to slice off the private parts of those who cross her.
She is sensitive to slights: When a Queens councilwoman neglected to credit Ms. Quinn in a news release, the speaker retaliated by cutting money for programs in her district.
Ms. Quinn’s staff, concerned that angry tirades could be overheard by outsiders, added soundproofing to her City Hall office. Wary of her temper, they are known to ask one another: “Did she throw up on you today?”
Ms. Quinn is by no means the first hotheaded politician in New York — Fiorello H. La Guardia and Rudolph W. Giuliani, both former mayors, were famed for their outbursts.
But those who have felt Ms. Quinn’s ire up close — in meetings, on telephone calls, even over lunches in restaurants — say they are often stunned by the intensity of her episodes.
“It’s just old-fashioned screaming, in a way that you just don’t hear that much,” one former city official said, describing a noisy encounter with the speaker.
In an interview last week, Ms. Quinn readily acknowledged her angry moments.
“I don’t think being pushy or bitchy or tough, or however you want to characterize it, is a bad thing,” she said. “New Yorkers want somebody who’s going to get things done.”
“Sometimes I yell, sometimes I raise my voice,” she added. “I am trying to do it less, because it’s not always attractive. It’s not always the right thing to do.”
A former housing activist, Ms. Quinn is an adept practitioner of the arts of municipal power, unrelenting in her negotiations and not afraid to intimidate. Her supporters say she has brought much-needed discipline to a Council once dismissed as ungovernable, hammering out useful legislation and calming relations with the mayor.
More than two dozen current and former city officials, lobbyists and political operatives recounted being berated by Ms. Quinn, but few would speak for the record, citing a fear of retaliation. They offered nearly identical accounts of their altercations, describing a rapid escalation of voice and vitriol, occasionally laced with vulgarity.
“Her eyes get really wide, she points her fingers,” one official said. “She gets really close to you. It’s really in your face.”
A former campaign donor who had been called to Ms. Quinn’s office to discuss a legislative proposal said: “She screamed at me for 10 minutes, uninterrupted, and used the ‘F’-word at least 20 times. I was just so startled, I didn’t know what to do.”
On telephone calls, Ms. Quinn can begin unexpected diatribes, her voice growing so loud that callers often have to hold their phones away from their ears.
“I couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” said one city official, who disagreed with the speaker over a piece of legislation, “so I just hung up.” (Ms. Quinn called back to extend her harangue.)
Ms. Quinn, who often publicly pokes fun at her own brassiness, is fully aware of her aggressive tendencies, once bragging in an interview that she could “open up the bitch tap and let the water run.” In an e-mail exchange with advocates, Ms. Quinn once offered a wry self-description: “control freak! Lol.”
“When I end up yelling, it’s not really deliberate,” Ms. Quinn said last week. “It’s usually out of some moment of passion or frustration or real desire to get unstuck.”
In the interview — which the speaker briefly interrupted to down an Advil with a swig of Starbucks coffee — Ms. Quinn offered no apology for her behavior, saying, “I am who I am.” But she also said she was working on becoming kinder and more measured. “Sometimes I try to give myself a beat or two before I say what I want to say,” she said.
Still, she signaled that modulation was not her top priority.
“At this point in my life, I’m not going to spend a lot of time focusing on dissatisfaction with who I am, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time tempering my personality,” Ms. Quinn said. “Whatever job I have next, I’m going to be somebody who wants to get things done.”
“I want to be a better Chris Quinn,” she added. “I don’t want to be a different Chris Quinn.”
Ms. Quinn is not the only mayoral candidate who has displayed a temper. One of the Republican candidates, Joseph J. Lhota, apologized last year after a board meeting at which he castigated a 77-year-old Holocaust survivor, challenging him to “be a man.”
Ms. Quinn’s aggressive style extends to private sessions with her staff, with whom she can be demanding. Her aides operate under a Quinn-imposed “15-minute rule”: e-mails or text messages from the speaker must be acknowledged within a quarter of an hour, or there will be consequences.
In strategy sessions, Ms. Quinn can speak colorfully of other lawmakers, often saying, “I’m going to cut his balls off.”
In Ms. Quinn’s parlance, the phrase can apply to women, as well: in the interview last week, she volunteered that using that phrase with a gender-neutral pronoun — “their” — is “a good way of doing it, so you don’t have to wonder about the gender.”
In caucus meetings, Ms. Quinn is perceived by lawmakers as aloof and dismissive, rarely looking up from her BlackBerry and loudly cutting off council members who try to raise concerns about pending bills.
At the end of meetings, Ms. Quinn asks, “Any other issues?” She does not wait for the answer before ducking out of the room, adding, “Bye!”
Even those subjected to a Quinn dressing-down say that, in happier times, the speaker is also unusually adept at turning on the charm. Her anger can be followed by bursts of ingratiating sweetness.
Colleagues recall telephone calls on birthdays and cheek-kisses at public functions, only days after a high-decibel shouting session. And the members of her staff are strikingly loyal, with close advisers staying by her side for years.
The yo-yo effect, colleagues and advocates say, is disconcerting, leading them to wonder if Ms. Quinn’s tantrums are a calculated tool to maintain order, or the byproduct of a stormy temperament that even her staff is helpless to soothe.
“She can boomerang from Miss Manners to Archie Bunker in 30 seconds,” said Dan Mathews, a senior vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who clashed with Ms. Quinn over a proposal to ban horse carriages in Central Park.
When Mr. Mathews met Ms. Quinn for lunch at an Italian restaurant in Chelsea, the speaker hollered across the table, “We’re not friends,” drawing stares from other diners. She continued, “If we saw each other on the street, we would hiss at each other.”
“It seemed to me like she was a wrestler jumping in the ring,” Mr. Mathews recalled, “trying to establish her dominance at the get-go.”
Ms. Quinn disputed neither the events of lunch with Mr. Mathews (although she said she viewed the behavior of animal-rights activists as harassing) nor her encounter with Ms. Gotbaum (she is now a fund-raiser for William C. Thompson Jr., another Democratic candidate for mayor). She did, however, deny comparing Ms. Gotbaum to Bambi, saying she had instead described her pleading expression as featuring “Bambi-like eyes.”
Several people said that Ms. Quinn’s anger could extend beyond conversation: as speaker, she has used her control of the Council’s funding accounts to punish members who have defied her.
When Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley issued a statement to community newspapers in her Queens district that took credit for saving local firehouses from the annual budget ax, she failed to praise Ms. Quinn. Within an hour, Ms. Crowley was called into a room at City Hall, where a livid Ms. Quinn began to shout at her, demanding to know who had authorized what she considered to be a premature and poorly worded release.
An aide to Ms. Quinn, Ramon Martinez, criticized Ms. Crowley’s abilities as a lawmaker, at one point telling her, “You don’t know when to shut up,” according to people familiar with the episode. (Mr. Martinez, in an interview, said he did not recall using those words at the time, but added, “I certainly could have said that to her” in a separate conversation.)
Shaken, Ms. Crowley left, thinking the worst was over. Days later, she learned that Ms. Quinn had cut the Council contributions to senior centers and youth sports programs in her district. The two now rarely speak.
Asked about the episode last week, Ms. Quinn said that Ms. Crowley had committed “a completely inappropriate, attention-grabbing act” and violated Council protocol. “She was told it was not acceptable, and I did not mince words in telling her that,” she said.
Did Ms. Crowley have her funding cut as a punishment? “It is what happened that year,” Ms. Quinn replied.
Pressed on whether the move was an act of retaliation, Ms. Quinn just smiled: “It is what happened that year,” she said again, signaling that the matter was closed.

Monday, March 25, 2013

NEST+M Principal Olga Livanis Under Fire For Incompetency and Harassment

The story of Olga Livanis is representative of principals who believe that parents and teachers have no rights. Dr. Livanis was at Stuyvesant High School where I met her when one of my daughters entered in 1999 (another daughter got in in 2003). She does not communicate well with anyone, and is very vindictive. 

My youngest daughter attended NEST+m from 6th grade through 12th grade. The story of her teacher, Adam Miller, the best English teacher who ever walked the earth (I like him, as you can tell) yet was harassed out of the school, and Mollymarie Coulibaly, a Spanish teacher who despised children of color yet was supported by Livanis (and I have all the statements of my daughter's classmates from the OSI investigation) is a chapter in my book. Dr. Olga Livanis, Principal of NEST+M, violated regulations and federal law by keeping Spanish teacher Ms. Mollymarie Coulibaly in her classes until March 17,2008 after racial discrimination was substantiated in November, 2007. Then when Ms. Coulibaly was removed, Dr. Livanis processed her removal so that she could get another job in another school. Ms. Coulibaly bought her freedom from charges for, I was told, $7500, and was not brought to 3020-a arbitration.

By the way, when Eva Moskowitz left City Council, I heard that she donated $350,000 of City Council "funds" (which fund it came from I dont know) so that her son could get in, which he did. I got many calls from Eric Grannis about the time the car would show up, etc. Now THAT's a story.

 Betsy Combier

Simmering tensions at NEST+M boil over on Curriculum Night

Kathy Stokes, a PTA officer, spoke to a NEST+m mother who did not know that teachers were boycotting Curriculum Night.
Teachers at a school where hundreds of parents signed a petition against the principal this summer continued the protest today by boycotting Curriculum Night.
Teachers at New Explorations in Science, Technology, and Math, or NEST+M, announced the boycott via email this afternoon, telling parents that Principal Olga Livanis had not soothed relations with the staff after she surprised several of them with “unsatisfactory” ratings.
When parents arrived for the annual introduction to what their children would be learning this year at the citywide school for gifted and talented students, they were told that many teachers had stayed home and given a copy of the email announcing the boycott.
“I feel really awful to hear this,” said Angela Stokes, a former teacher whose daughter is a sophomore in NEST’s high school. “I had this idyllic idea about NEST being away from all the muck and the mire of the DOE. NEST is not immune, I’m finding out.”
Livanis has butted heads with parents and teachers since 2006, when she was installed as principal after the school’s founding leader was removed amid controversy and over some parents’ objections. In June, hundreds of parents registered official objections after several well liked teachers received the low ratings. Their petition, which was delivered to Department of Education officials, also called on Livanis to improve the way she communicates with members of the school community.
But two weeks into the new school year, teachers said today that there had been no changes.
“Our show of solidarity has gone unanswered and ignored by the administration, and no indication has been made that she will address the issues and ensure a positive work environment for the staff and a positive learning environment for the students,” read the teachers’ email today.
Rob Curry-Smithson, a high school history teacher who is also NEST+m’s union chapter leader, said the U-ratings had gone to teachers who had never been alerted that they were performing poorly and that Livanis had cited seemingly minor transgressions, such as one instance of yelling, in her reports. All seven of the teachers who received the low ratings filed grievances, and the only case to be heard so far resulted in the U-rating being overturned, he said.
Still, Curry-Smithson said, Livanis’s apparent capriciousness frightened the teachers.
“We realized that every minute on the job is an increased potential that something could go wrong — so we should at least be paid for that time when we are putting our careers at risk,” he said.
So they asked to be paid overtime for Curriculum Night, which unlike parent-teacher conferences is not required contractually. But Livanis declined to pay teachers for the evening, Curry-Smithson said, and he said when he suggested that Livanis compensate teachers with time instead of money, she declined even to speak with him. The boycott was a last resort, he said.
As parents trickled into the school this evening, Kathy Stokes, c0-vice president of the middle school’s parent-teacher association, informed new arrivals about the boycott and guided them toward teachers who were available.
Some parents grumbled that they had reserved babysitters unnecessarily. But others said the inconvenience was slight.
“I get regular communication from the teacher during the school hours, so I don’t feel like I can complain if she’s not here tonight,” said Chante Brown, the mother of a third-grader and a ninth-grader at NEST.
Curry-Smithson said he expected about 80 percent of teachers to stay home but that some untenured teachers were too concerned about repercussions to participate. An email from NEST’s lower school assistant principal to parents this afternoon listed several teachers who had already alerted him that they would not be present and noted that it looked like all fourth- and fifth-grade teachers would stay home.
“I cannot confirm some teachers, as I have been told that they don’t know themselves whether they are staying or not,” wrote the assistant principal, Nicholas Patrello. He added, “I do apologize about the confusion and frustration.”
Many parents placed the blame squarely on the administration.
“We began to hear rumblings about this last week, but to be fair I think [teachers] were trying until the last minute to find a compromise,” Stokes said. ”I look forward as a parent to Curriculum Night and I’m disappointed that the administration couldn’t work with the teachers to make the night happen.”
“I think there has been some hope that with the new chancellor there could be an opportunity for an administrative change,” said a parent who skipped Curriculum Night to show support for her daughter’s teachers. “There have many unhappy teachers at NEST for a long time. It is such a shame as the school has enormous potential to be a fantastic.”
NEST+m teachers’ letter to parents is below.
Dear Parents,
As NEST+m UFT reps, we want to let you know why many of the NEST+m staff will not be present for Curriculum Night. Last year, we expressed our grievances concerning the way our school has been run to Dr. Livanis, but to no avail.  Our show of solidarity has gone unanswered and ignored by the administration, and no indication has been made that she will address the issues and ensure a positive work environment for the staff and a positive learning environment for the students.
When Dr. Livanis unfairly and without warning rated seven teachers  unsatisfactory last year, we became concerned. This rating is not a minor thing; it is the first step in stripping someone of their teaching license, (which makes it impossible for that teacher to take a job elsewhere, and freezes their salary, resulting in a loss of approximately one thousand dollars to the teacher). Many of the teachers who received a “U” rating have been told by Dr. Livanis that she considers them fine teachers, and that the rating was not a reflection of their performance. While it is always nice to hear that your supervisor thinks you are doing a good job, it is a strange and disconcerting thing to have one thing said to your face and another one recorded on an official record which will follow you. Since many of these teachers are known to be great teachers who go above and beyond the requirements of their job, there is concern amongst the staff that our careers are subject to arbitrary and unfair decisions by our principal.
While Dr. Livanis has made no visible effort to assuage our fears, we have become concerned that anything we say or do might be twisted and used to torpedo our career. Because we are unsure how else to express our grave dissatisfaction with the status-quo, we have decided that, at a minimum, we need to ensure that we don’t endanger our jobs by working unpaid, non-contractual hours. While in the past we have gone beyond our job description and worked overtime without pay on Curriculum Night, this year we asked to be paid for those hours. This is a practice which is normal at many schools in NYC, and is in keeping with our contract. When Dr. Livanis denied our request, we were concerned about deserting parents who had already planned to attend. So we offered a compromise. We offered to work the hour and a half if she would count that as one of our 45 minute after-school meetings that are required by contract. As she has refused this compromise as well, we feel it necessary to stand firm on this issue — something we have not done in the past.
We apologize for the last minute nature of this decision.  We have been trying to resolve this with compromise up through today but we have been unsuccessful.  We deeply regret any inconveniences this has caused families, and we regret not being able to reach a settlement that would have allowed us all to share this evening together.
Thank you for your understanding and support,
The NEST+m UFT Consultation Committee
 Here is an edited email from an anonymous source regarding the UFT:
With the story hitting Gotham Schools, Mulgrew now, out of nowhere, wants to meet with the entire staff.  My guess is that they are furious with the chapter because the teachers did all of what they did, without any backing of the people at the Manhattan Borough Office.  The Manhattan Borough Office, though, has always felt that because the teachers at Nest don't have the serious issues other D1 schools have they should just be happy and not complain about anything.  Therefore, they have done very little over the years to get through to Livanis.  Well, the pressure has been building for six years and has finally blown.


American Progress on Mayoral Control and Student Achievement

The only thing that Mayoral control did in New York City was give Principals, Superintendents, and other highly paid staff at the NYC Department of Education - including the Gotcha Squad, or Office of Legal Services - the authority to lie, cheat, and steal.

Betsy Combier

Mayoral Governance and Student Achievement

How Mayor-Led Districts Are Improving School and Student Performance


While school board members are elected by fewer than 10 percent of the eligible voters, mayoral races are often decided by more than half of the electorate. Under mayoral control, public education gets on the citywide agenda.
Endnotes and citations are available in the PDF version of this report.
Using mayoral governance—in which a city’s mayor replaces an elected school board with a board that he or she appoints—as a strategy to raise urban school performance began about two decades ago, when then-Mayor of Boston Raymond Flynn (D) gained control over the city’s school district. Boston was soon followed by Chicago, where Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) appointed both the chief executive officer and the entire school board of the school system. Over the past 20 years, mayoral governance of schools has been featured prominently in nearly 20 urban school systems across the country. (see Table 1 in the PDF)
Mayoral control and accountability is one of very few major education reforms that aim at governance coherence in our highly fragmented urban school systems. A primary feature of mayoral governance is that it holds the office of the mayor accountable for school performance. As an institutional redesign, mayoral governance integrates school-district accountability and the electoral process at the systemwide level. The so-called education mayor is ultimately held accountable for the school system’s performance on an academic, fiscal, operational, and managerial level. While school board members are elected by fewer than 10 percent of the eligible voters, mayoral races are often decided by more than half of the electorate. Under mayoral control, public education gets on the citywide agenda.
Governance constitutes a structural barrier to academic and management improvement in too many large urban districts, where turf battles and political squabbles involving school leaders and an array of stakeholders have for too long taken energy and focus away from the core mission of education. Many urban districts are exceedingly ungovernable, with fragmented centers of power tending to look after the interests of their own specific constituencies. Consequently, the independently elected school board has limited leverage to advance collective priorities, and the school superintendent lacks the institutional capacity to manage the policy constraints established in state regulations and the union contract. Therefore, mayoral accountability aims to address the governing challenges in urban districts by making a single office responsible for the performance the city’s public schools. Citywide priorities such as reducing the achievement gap receive more focused attention.
This report examines the effects of mayoral governance on two specific areas—resource management and student achievement. In analyzing multiple, longitudinal databases on student achievement and financial management, this report found that mayoral governance has improved urban school districts. The findings will be useful to current and future mayors who may consider taking a greater role in public education. The following are among the report’s key findings:
  • Mayoral-led districts are engaged in strategic allocation of resources. According to available nationwide data over a 15-year period, mayoral-control districts were positively associated with investment in teaching staff, more spending on instruction, smaller student-teacher ratios, a greater percentage of resources allocated for K-12 student support, a larger percentage of revenue from state sources, and a smaller percentage of funding from local sources. The strategic leveraging of revenues to support K-12 education suggests that “education mayors” focus on the broader—and often necessary—conditions that support teaching and learning. Consequently, several mayoral-led districts showed academic improvement over time.
  • Over the past decade, mayoral-control school districts have generally improved districtwide performance relative to average school district performance statewide. Understandably, this improvement varies across districts, and it is somewhat uneven by grade and subject matter.
  • There were 11 districts that were governed by some degree of mayoral leadership toward the end period of our database on state assessment results. Among these 11 districts, five made substantial improvement in narrowing the student achievement gap within their states. These districts include New York; New Haven, Connecticut; Chicago; Philadelphia; and Baltimore. Four districts—Hartford, Connecticut; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Boston; and Providence, Rhode Island—showed progress on some academic measures.
  • Mayoral control in New York City appears to have had significant positive effects on both fourth- and eighth-grade student achievement. African American and Latino students benefited academically from mayoral control in New York City. The improvement rate ranged from between 1 percent to 3 percent annually. A 1 percent annual increase in student proficiency rates among New York City’s fourth graders, for example, would increase achievement for nearly 2,000 students.
  • In Boston and Chicago, achievement improvement was strong during the initial period of mayoral governance, but there has been a relative tapering of performance in recent years.
While they are not addressed specifically in this report, our findings suggest several policy implications for broadening the positive effects of mayoral governance on student achievement and financial and management outcomes. In studying successful mayoral governance, we made the following observations:
  • Mayoral governance is most effective when the mayor is ready to act. To turn around a low- performing district, an education mayor is necessary, but the mere presence of one is not sufficient. A mayor must be ready to act to overcome barriers to school improvement. Granting a mayor the opportunity to be in charge of a district is only the beginning. The mayor has to be an active education mayor, consistently leveraging resources and mobilizing stakeholders strategically to facilitate a supportive policy environment in public education.
  • A city must adapt, not adopt. Cities considering mayoral governance should adapt mayoral control to their unique local context. A thorough assessment of local challenges must be used to guide the design of mayoral governance. Given the variation in local cultures and politics, cities considering mayoral control must plan strategically and engage collectively to make sure that mayoral leadership will contribute to a stronger system of accountability. Education mayors need to form specific coalitions with key stakeholders in their communities to raise school performance.
  • Mayoral control may require reinvention. Once established, mayoral governance cannot simply rely on early success. Clearly, we need to learn from cities that continued to show academic gains over time. Without reinvention, mayoral control may stall in its ability to generate growth in student achievement. Our study suggests that even if mayoral control is initially successful, that success may be time bound. Reinventing mayoral control—whether through new leadership or new governance practices—seems necessary to reinvigorating student-achievement gains.
  • Diverse providers and charter schools should be involved. The future of mayoral control will—and ought to—involve the authorization of diverse providers and charter schools. Because of entrenched state politics, it seems unlikely that a large number of states will expand mayoral control to their big-city school districts in the near future. Given this likelihood, mayors may be best served by finding alternative ways to enhance their city’s public schools. One promising approach is the use of charter schools such as the mayoral authorization of charter schools in Indianapolis.2 One promising approach is the mayoral authorization of charter schools, which recently occurred in Indianapolis. The implementation of this type of portfolio management—whereby districts in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia contract with a diverse set of school providers to operate more autonomous schools that are subsequently held accountable for student achievement—may provide new perspective on mayoral leadership and the use of diverse providers.
Let’s examine in greater detail the mayoral-governance landscape, including the outcomes and challenges of this promising approach to school improvement and students’ academic achievement.
    Mayoral Governance and Student Achievement
  • Download the report: 
  • Download introduction & summary: 
  • Read it in your browser: 

Kenneth K. Wong is the Walter and Leonore Annenberg professor and chair of the department of education at Brown University. Francis X. Shen is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. 
To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:
Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, and health care) 
202.741.6285 or
Print: Christina DiPasquale (foreign policy and security, energy) 
202.481.8181 or
Print: Madeline Meth (ethnic media, immigration) 
202.741.6277 or
Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or
Radio: Anne Shoup 
202.481.7146 or
TV: Lindsay Hamilton 
202.483.2675 or
Web: Andrea Peterson 
202.481.8119 or