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who should rule the schools
August 7, 2009
The fruitful alliance of Arne Duncan and Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch and Arne Duncan. (Images via Creative Commons) The New York Post patted its own back today, hard, for helping the state renew the mayor's control of the public schools. The surprising thing is that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined in, thanking the newspaper, owned by the ambitious Rupert Murdoch, for its "leadership" and "thoughtfulness." New York City newspapers have a proud tradition of waging campaigns both on and off the editorial page, and then congratulating themselves when they hit their marks. But having a cabinet member for a sitting president join the cheering is more unusual. "I think that must be out of context, that Arne Duncan is giving the Post credit for mayoral control," the president of the principals' union, Ernest Logan, said when I called to ask his impression. The news series the Post ran extolling mayoral control Richard Colvin, who directs the Hechinger Institute for education journalism at Columbia University, said he found the whole news story baffling. "It reads like nothing I've ever seen. It reads like the worst kind of back-patting, self-congratulatory press release that has no perspective whatsoever," he said. Duncan's quote does illustrate a strange alliance that fought hard for mayoral control's renewal, Murdoch and the secretary of education among them.
August 6, 2009
More than a month after its expiration, mayoral control is back
New York state senators resurrected mayoral control today, voting 47 against 8 to pass the legislation this afternoon. According to the Daily News' Liz Benjamin, debate over the bill lasted for two hours and turned personal when critics of mayoral control attacked the bill's supporters, Sens. Daniel Squadron and Frank Padavan. The Senate also passed four amendments that will create a parent training center, an arts council, yearly school safety meetings, and expanded oversight of principals by superintendents. Jimmy Vielkind at Politicker reports that the dissenting senators were Bill Perkins, Ruben Diaz Sr., Shirley Huntley, Kevin Parker, Velmanette Montgomery, Eric Adams, Carl Kruger, and Tom Duane. Perkins and Diaz also voted against all four amendments. Standing on the Senate floor, Diaz forecast how tomorrow's editorials would receive his vote. "You read it, tomorrow they're going to call me a monkey, they're going to call me a clown, they're going to call me stupid. They're going to call me all kinds of things," he said. The NY Post, which has been mayoral control's biggest cheerleader, is reporting the news with an exclamation point in its lede. "Mayor Bloomberg is still the undisputed educator-in-chief of New York City public schools!"
July 31, 2009
Public advocate candidates sound off on mayoral control
Earlier this week, the New York Civil Liberties Union held a debate among the candidates for public advocate, moderated by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News. Gonzalez quizzed the five candidates about mayoral control — the following are their responses (video courtesy of the NYCLU). Next Tuesday the organization is co-hosting a debate for the mayoral candidates. Bill de Blasio said the issue is "very personal" for him, citing his children, who attend public schools, and his service on a school board. "I think we need profound reform of mayoral control," he said, but did not go into specifics. "I'm offended at any effort to reduce the democratic participation of parents in our school system. I believe there's a way to do mayoral control right. I think there are virtues in the system if there is transparency, if there are clear checks and balances, if there is a forum for actual debate, if there is a role for communities and for local residents and for parents."
July 30, 2009
The Senate plans to restore mayoral control a week from today
State senators have finally set a date for their return to Albany to renew mayoral control. Liz Benjamin of the Daily News is reporting…
July 28, 2009
Parent advocacy groups could be a parting gift of control debate
One outcome of Albany's debate over mayoral control may have nothing to do with state law. The political wrangling may end up leaving the city with permanent parent advocacy groups. Last Friday, Democratic state senators reached a deal with Mayor Bloomberg (that may or may not pass), essentially ending the drawn-out negotiations. Yet groups that were in the thick of the political fight just last week are intent on remaining active, even if the mayoral control debate has largely ended. Learn NY, which was set up roughly a year ago by allies of the Bloomberg administration to campaign for mayoral control's renewal, will continue to exist until the Senate passes a bill bringing mayoral control back. After that, the group's future is uncertain. Learn NY spokeswoman Julie Wood refused to comment in greater detail. On the opposite side of the debate are groups like the Campaign for Better Schools, the 3Rs Coalition, and the Parent Commission on School Governance, all of which advocated for significant changes to the 2002 school governance law, but favored keeping mayoral control in place. Each them face their own existential questions.
July 24, 2009
Senators agree to reinstate mayoral control before school starts
After several hours of heated discussions, Democratic state senators emerged from a meeting today declaring that they had reached an agreement with Mayor Bloomberg on mayoral control. Standing outside of 250 Broadway, where a dozen of the city's senators met and others listened in by phone, Democratic conference leader John Sampson said, "One thing you can say today is, we have an agreement with respect to school governance." Senators cautioned that the deal's language has yet to be finalized on paper, but what they described mirrors an earlier agreement that fell apart last week. Today's agreement would add extra checks to a mayoral control bill passed by the Assembly, including a parent training center based out of CUNY, an increased supervisory role for superintendents, and a new citywide arts panel. According to a statement released by Sen. Carl Kruger's office, the deal also includes the creation of a Senate subcommittee to oversee the Department of Education. "All's well that ends well," said outgoing UFT president Randi Weingarten, who said that she has been acting as a "go-between" for the two sides, spending Thursday night on the phone helping to broker today's deal. A spokeswoman for the mayor's office, Dawn Walker, released a statement saying: The agreement "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. At the same time, the agreement addresses concerns that have been raised by legislators in a way that makes sense." Sens. Sampson and Pedro Espada were vague about when they would return to Albany to pass the Assembly's mayoral control bill. Espada said it would happen "before children start school in September." But Walker's statement sets the date as the first week of August.
July 24, 2009
Diaz, Monserrate walk out of control talks, but "it's a done deal"
Sens. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Hiram Monserrate walked out of Senate talks about school governance this afternoon, but they signaled that their disagreement with the…
July 24, 2009
Persuasion project underway to finalize mayoral control deal
Senate Democratic leaders are meeting right now with the most vehement critics of mayoral control, trying to persuade them to go along with a tentative deal on school governance that Sens. John Sampson and Malcolm Smith struck with the Bloomberg administration yesterday. The persuasion effort is happening at 250 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, according to Sen. Jose Serrano of the Bronx. Serrano said he is happy with the deal struck yesterday by Sens. John Sampson and Malcolm Smith and would like to go to Albany as soon as possible to seal it. "I'd like to go right now!" he said in a phone interview. "Everyone wants to talk about they want to be in their districts for the summer, that's when all of the events are happening, the street festivals and the family days. My thinking is, the sooner we get this done, the sooner we can start scheduling things here in the district." But other senators might be wary. The deal includes a component Serrano favored, a new panel on arts education that would be a subdivision of the citywide school board, acting as a "watchdog" and performing audits on whether arts education is really happening in classrooms.
July 24, 2009
A mayoral control deal; next step, get senators on board
The Bloomberg administration and Senate Democrats reached a tentative deal on school governance last night, with the mayor agreeing to some extra oversight of police in schools, a $1.6 million parent training center, and a new citywide panel on arts education, sources familiar with the deal confirmed this morning. The deal would also require the city to add a new factor in superintendents' reviews of principals: the quality of instruction and curriculum. Hashed out by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and the two top Senate Democrats, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, the agreement is several steps away from being finalized. The rest of the Senate's Democratic conference will have to sign onto the agreement — and so will the state Assembly. Even more difficult, for the deal to become law before the next school year, both houses of the legislature will have to return to Albany this summer to pass legislation. The Assembly already passed a bill renewing mayoral control of the public schools, with some tweaks, before the end of its regular session. The bill enjoyed the support of the Bloomberg administration, but senate Democrats, once they solidified their thin majority, pushed back against signing onto an identical copy. They pushed for extra tweaks including a way to guarantee parent involvement in the public schools.
July 23, 2009
Angry senators call for negotiations that are already happening
Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. delivered a speech in Spanish against no-bid contracts. (<em>GothamSchools</em>) The circus around the State Senate intensified today as half a dozen senators gathered to complain that Mayor Bloomberg would not meet them at the bargaining table. Immediately afterward, senators confirmed that negotiations are, in fact, ongoing. "We will not be dictated to, we will be negotiated with," said Senator Bill Perkins, a persistent critic of mayoral control. Joining Perkins on the steps of City Hall were Sens. Shirley Huntley, Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada, Eric Adams, Ruben Diaz Sr., and City Councilman Robert Jackson. All of the senators were among those who supported a failed bill that would have curtailed mayoral control. After the press conference, Monserrate acknowledged to reporters that negotiations were already in progress. "We're at the table," he said. "There are some meetings occurring." Those meetings, which began on Monday after mayoral control talks fell apart last week, are being held by Democratic conference leader John Sampson's staff and deputy schools chancellor Christopher Cerf. Senators would not discuss the details of the negotiations today, but they reiterated their support for increased parent involvement, funding for art programs, and fixed terms for citywide school board members. A source close to the discussions described the talks as "fragile."
July 17, 2009
Critics, City Hall, and union struck deal, but Senate Dems refused
Bloomberg administration officials are ending a sleepless week in Albany today with no idea whatsoever of how to get mayoral control renewed, along with the unsettling realization that the stalemate could go on for the rest of the summer. In the end, it wasn't that the mayor's office couldn't strike a deal with the largest group criticizing mayoral control, the Campaign for Better Schools, or with the city teachers' union, which had pushed for checks early on. All three parties signed onto a deal together earlier this week, writing down a Memorandum of Understanding that would have put in place parent-training centers that senators said they wanted to add. But Senate Democrats ultimately did not go along with the deal. "It's not like we couldn't agree on terms. It's like they couldn't agree on terms amongst themselves," an exhausted and depressed city official, speaking on background, said in an interview today. "They clearly were saying one thing to us yesterday and doing something different," said teachers union president Randi Weingarten. "That was very frustrating."
July 17, 2009
Bloomberg fumes as mayoral control looks dead for summer
Listen to the segment in its entirety right here: 07-17-09-worrs Michael Barbaro reports on the choice words Mayor Bloomberg had for the state…
July 1, 2009
Klein urges CECs to keep meeting, though they don't legally exist
A day after mayoral control's expiration, the Board of Education has been resurrected, but there are no signs of life for community school boards. Instead, the Department of Education is planning to continue the Community Education Councils — despite the fact that they no longer legally exist. These parent councils replaced school boards in 2003 and, with the law's expiration, have been legally stripped of their authority and responsibilities. Chancellor Joel Klein, who was voted back into office unanimously today by the new Board of Education, sent a memo to principals today outlining his plans for the CECs. He said he is urging the CECs to continue meeting "at least until September when we hope to have more clarity." "If the Councils decide not to continue their work, we've asked them to notify us immediately," Klein wrote. The decision to create of a Board of Education and vote in a chancellor while leaving the rest of the power structure as it was under mayoral control has divided the system into old and new. The school system's top half is in compliance with pre-2002 law, while its lower quarters legally don't exist.
July 1, 2009
As Board of Education convenes, Dept of Ed's beat goes on
As borough presidents prepared to gather at Gracie Mansion to convene a new-old Board of Education last night, city principals received a newsletter in which the biggest news had to do with kindergarten waiting lists. No mention whatsoever of mayoral control's expiration. Here's the weekly newsletter:
June 30, 2009
What happens when mayoral control expires: a step-by-step guide
Control of Tweed Courthouse, the Department of Education's headquarters, is in question as mayoral control expires. In the past week, we have interviewed dozens of…
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