Two noticeable absentees from the hearings were Mayor Bill de Blasio and anyone from the UFT.
The best part for me was reading Class Size Matters Director Leonie Haimson's testimony.
I have opposed Mayoral control and have done so since its inception in 2003. Unlike others who have switched their positions depending on who is Mayor and what policies he espouses, I have been consistent in my views.
Why have we consistently opposed this governance system? Mayoral control as it exists here, in
and a few other cities around the country, is inherently undemocratic and
provides no real checks and balances to autocratic rule. As a result,
it has too often suffered from insufficient input from parents and
community members, closest to conditions on the ground, the result being
damaging policies and unwise spending priorities. Our entire system of
democratic rule, from the federal government on down, relies on a separation of
powers. Can you imagine if the Governor decided to dismiss the State
Legislature on the grounds that it was an inefficient governance system?
It is simply unacceptable and frankly racist that the only places where Mayoral control currently exists have student populations that are majority students of color. Suburban and rural cities and towns in the rest of the state and the country would never accept a system that so disempowers voters, including the towns that many of you Senators represent, and neither should we here in NYC. I would add that nearly every poll that has surveyed NYC voters have found the majority against Mayoral control as well, and in favor of the executive sharing power with the City Council or an independent school board.
What about the record of Mayoral control here in
New York City? Despite
claims of great progress, Class Size Matters analyzed test scores city students
received on the NAEPs, the most reliable assessments known that exist, also
known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. When gains in student
test scores since mayoral control was instituted in 2003 are disaggregated by
race, ethnicity,and economic status, it is apparent that New York City schools came out second to last
among ten cities in improved achievement.
Though it is true that graduation rates have increased, our gains mirror increased rates nationally, and as has been argued may also reflect increased pressure on schools to inflate their figures, through discredited methods such as credit recovery schemes and the like.
The justification for mayoral control is that the previous system was scandal-ridden, with corrupt local school boards exhibiting patronage and the like. But the reality is that Community School Boards had their power to hire and fire taken away from them in 1996, years before Mayoral control was instituted.
Moreover, the waste and fraud continues under the current system far outstrips what occurred previously. There were multiple, multi-million dollar no-bid contracts awarded under Mayor Bloomberg that subsequently turned out to be wasteful and/or corrupt. One of the largest related to a contract awarded Custom Computer Specialists, to provide internet wiring from 2002 to 2008, with the vendor hired by Ross Lanham, a DOE consultant. As a 2011 report from the Special Investigator’s office revealed, Lanham and CCS were involved in a massive kick-back scheme that stole millions from the DOE.
The CEO of CSS and Lanham also started a real estate business together. Lanham later was indicted and sent to jail for his crimes, and the FCC excluded the DOE from more than $100 million of E-rate reimbursement funds because of the resulting scandal.
Leonie attacks the DOE on class sizes and other issues too.
She is 100% right. This is why this blog has said it is time for the Legislature to let Mayoral control die.