Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Mayoral Candidates: Backing Mayoral Control, But Not Bloomberg-Style

Interesting positions from potential successors to Bloomberg on Mayoral Control at a CEJ forum. All tried to differentiate themselves from the Mayor on education, but said they would maintain Mayoral Control.  Notably absent, of course, was Christine Quinn...

Backing Mayoral Control, But Not Bloomberg-Style

By DAVID SIMS | Posted: Friday, April 27, 2012 12:00 am
Three of the candidates hoping to succeed Mayor Bloomberg in 2013 said April 17 that mayoral control of the school system should be sustained but relaxed to allow more input from parents and communities, with less emphasis on closing schools.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former City Comptroller and 2009 mayoral candidate William C. Thompson Jr. offered their views on education policy in a panel discussion at New York University, expressing measured support for mayoral control with appropriate changes.
Mayor: Having It Both Ways
Mr. Bloomberg offered a biting response at a press conference, telling reporters, “To say I’m in favor of mayoral control, but I want to turn over the power to others, is very similar to my example of, ‘I am pro-choice, but not for women.’’’
The NYU panel was organized by the New York City Working Group on School Transformation, a coalition with members that are typically critical of the Department of Education, including the Alliance for Quality Education, the Coalition for Educational Justice and the Urban Youth Collaborative.
The group presented a new report advocating a direction for the DOE counter to the reforms put in place by the Bloomberg administration. It proposed elevating successful schools as “professional development lab sites” that can impart successful strategies to struggling schools, as part of a “success initiative” designed to boost failing schools instead of quickly closing them.
It pointed to the findings of the Parthenon Report, a 2005 study commissioned by DOE that said that large high schools with high concentrations of struggling students were doomed to failure, with significantly lower chances for graduation.
Critics have argued that DOE has ignored these findings and continued to push high-need students into greater concentrations by closing large high schools and leaving them with fewer options.
‘Need One Person in Charge’
Mr. Stringer said that he agreed with the report that significant reforms were necessary at the DOE, but said it could be done without repealing mayoral control. “I voted for mayoral control 10 years ago. I didn’t believe back then that the old model was working,” he said, referring to his time as a State Assemblyman. “When it came time to put one person in charge, a strong Chancellor, I embraced it. And I embrace it today.”
He emphasized that better communication from the DOE would help improve its image in the eyes of the public, joking that it is easier to get into the Federal Reserve Bank than the charge, a strong Chancellor, I embraced it. And I embrace it today.”
He emphasized that better communication from the DOE would help improve its image in the eyes of the public, joking that it is easier to get into the Federal Reserve Bank than the agency’s headquarters at the Tweed Courthouse.
“Imagine if we had a system in place at the DOE where people were listened to and not shunted away, how much smarter the DOE could be,” he said. “We have agencies in city government that are acting on behalf of children but they don’t talk to each other. The Administration for Children’s Services never talks to DOE. DOE and Tweed should be the ultimate place where everybody can get their needs addressed. That door should be open.”
Decries ‘Rush to Closure’
Mr. de Blasio said that the Bloomberg administration had damaged its legacy on education by continuing to close dozens of schools each year without a significant impact for the better.
“I have never said there was no such thing as a school that needs to be closed and re-worked, but I think we have reached the opposite reality,” he said. “The rush to closure without evidence that it could produce a different result has led to a very bad policy.
“This report, I hope, will spark an entire re-evaluation of where we are. That’s what I hope we get to, where the last resort is closure,” he added.
Mr. Thompson, who served as President of the Board of Education before its dissolution, was more forceful in his condemnation of school closings, saying that the State Legislature should pass a moratorium on them for the last year of the Bloomberg administration.
‘Educational Malfeasance’
“A policy that leads with school closings is not sound educational policy. In fact, it really tends to be educational malfeasance,” he said. “School closings shouldn’t be used as a first option, but really a last choice.”
He endorsed the report’s “success initiative” plan, recalling the “Chancellor’s District” enacted in 1996 under then-Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew that devoted particular attention to struggling schools, capping their enrollment, emphasizing professional development and regimenting curriculum.
“Those schools went up and up and up and in almost every case came off the [closing] list,” Mr. Thompson said. The Bloomberg-administration policy of aggressive closing just shuffles students from one struggling school to another, he charged.
“There have been 140 school closings, and where has it put us? More failing schools,” he said. “It’s a shell game situation, a Ponzi scheme. Moving students from one school to another, to another.”
The other candidates did not favor a moratorium on school closings, saying it should be a last-resort option available to the city.
The most-prominent mayoral candidate missing from the forum was Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is considered an ally of the Mayor’s. She told the New York Times that she had not attended because she did not endorse the concept of a new Chancellor’s District.

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