Thursday, January 25, 2024

Mayoral Control: History Repeats

 Jan. 24, 2024

Mayoral control of the school system is currently up for renewal and hearings are being held in each borough.

Recent reporting on mayoral control:

    UFT/Unity leadership has been the Major Obstacle to ending mayoral control

    In 2002 Ed Notes Warned the UFT About Evils of Mayoral Control...

    The myth of accountability under Mayoral control: Leonie Haimson comments at the Manhattan hearing


Mayoral Control was implemented in NYC with the election of Michael Bloomberg as mayor in 2002. The UFT leadership, more comfortable with dealing with a top down manager of the schools, enthusiastically supported the idea. Education Notes had been reporting on the nefarious aspects due to our connection to the reporting of George Schmidt on the disaster in  since 1995. (Chicago is in the progress of ending mayoral control and going to an electoral system.)

ICE was founded in late 2003 when a group of about 20 UFTers who were followers of Education Notes met to discuss the implications for the UFT of the election arrangement New Action, the leading opposition caucus to Unity, had made with Unity. Over a few weeks of meetings, the group decided to run in the 2004 UFT elections and featured strong opposition to mayoral control, which had been ignored by New Action and other opposition groups (Teachers for a Just Contract, Progressive Action Caucus), none of whom challenged the UFT leadership on this issue. 

ICE put mayoral control on the radar of UFTers and kept raising it right through the time ICE became part of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) and then MORE. The ICE platform in the 2010 UFT election included: 

ICE supports local neighborhood public schools.

            Diverting money to private schools through vouchers, hiring private companies to run public schools, and creating charter schools that operate on the DoE budget but free of union contracts and other restrictions that apply to public schools do great harm in polarizing our educational system and our society. Charters and schools infused with private money get preferential treatment, particularly in class size (smaller), the selection of students, and appurtenances. The DoE’s agenda to privatize the system is done through unilateral decisions and in secret. Targets for the influx of private money have been the minority areas of the city, where many large schools have been broken up into smaller ones and where public schools are being forced to absorb charters.

ICE was noted for taking deep dives into issues and just opposing mayoral control did not seem to be enough. We felt we had to offer some alternative, even if not perfect, as a basis to start a discussion on what could replace it. Many of us had come into the system in the late 60s when the old system of k-8 district level community control with elected school boards was being implemented and spent our careers working under that system. So we had the benefit of foresight and hindsight and understood that the school was the place where real power should emanate from as a way to turn a top-down system into a bottom up one.


Here was an attempt to offer a comprehensive plan, based on making school leadership teams the basis for governance. The exact date is unknown, but I assume it may have been circa 2008-9 when mayoral control was up for renewal. In no sense was this designed to be an end-all and be-all but a way to engage people with all the possible alternatives.


Norm Scott


A Plan for School Governance c. 2008-9


ICE has spent over two years discussing a governance plan that would value and enable the democratic participation of al constituents, providing students, staff and parents with the rights and institutional equity that represent the highest ideals and potentialities of public education. This is a golden opportunity to right what was wrong with the system prior to 2002 and correct what can only be considered a disaster since then, a disaster that includes attacks on the expertise and rights of teachers, contempt for the voice of parents and disregard for the developmental, social, academic, physical and artistic needs of students.

1. The system must be based on democratic participation of the community with decision-making flowing from the school level to a central body.   

• The creation of true school leadership committees (to replace the present School Leadership Teams) shared decision making, as defined by NYS Law, will create a Comprehensive Education Plan which will set goals and make recommendations about improving the quality of education in each school, with reference to but not dictated by citywide policy. The administration, faculty and parents will have an equal role on the committee. In their augmented role in the school, committees will be reconstituted, with special attention to making them more inclusive and accessible to teachers and parents.

• The duly elected and well trained committees appoint their principals and assistant principals who will maintain a collaborative relationship with the committee and the entire staff.

Principals, assistant principals and other pedagogical supervisors must be experienced educators, with a minimum of five years of classroom experience. This also applies to District Superintendents and the Chancellor. No waivers will be granted. Those who are in a position of guiding instruction in our schools should have the understanding and expertise which comes from implementing practice in classroom teaching.

• Management begins at the school level, with a central organization to standardize some components, manage overall system responsibilities (licensing, payroll, contract negotiation, etc.)

• District Superintendents are selected by school leadership committees in the District in which they serve. The major function of the District Superintendents will be to provide friendly criticism and support, and to advocate for the needs of their respective schools.

2. The DOE must be politically neutral and not tied to any one political office. A school system should not be subject to the inherently destabilizing whims, caprice, political aspirations, career, or manipulations of a politician. It must be run as an independent office with responsibilities to the people of the City and operate within the regulations and laws of the NYS Education Department.

• A Central Board responsible for general and overall policy and oversight of al services that are centrally located will be made up of five members elected citywide, one appointee from each of the borough presidents and three mayoral appointees. All will be elected/appointed for set, rotating terms and removed only for cause.

• The Central Board will appoint a Chancellor, who has demonstrated success as an educator with a minimum of five years classroom experience.

• The Chancellor's role will be to advocate for policy, law and funding; develop guidelines, benchmarks and tracking systems for school needs and achievement; report to all elected officials; monitor the District Superintendents; establish a human resource department; negotiate contracts, and insure that they are upheld. The Chancellor shall be legally mandated to follow the guidelines of the NYS Education Department in regard to all school reorganizations, closings and significant administrative changes that affect the stakeholders of the school system.

Should the Chancellor or his agents be charged with failure to uphold or implement the relevant laws and regulations of the NYS Education Department, expedited proceedings shall be put in place to ascertain whether such accusations are true, and if proven true shall involve prompt redress that if unmet will carry the threat of punitive sanctions with the force of law.

3. All constituents should have input into the design of a governance system.

• A Transition Team is to be established to plan for the proposed new governance structure, to be composed of teachers, parents, administrators, elected officials and high school students.

• Public hearings shall be held to insure democratic input into the broad outlines of a governance structure. They shall be well-publicized and held at times and places that insure maximum turnout.

4. Benchmarks are to be established and evaluations conducted by an independent agency.

• Evaluations of schools and students should be based on multiple measures and should be used for gathering information in order to provide support.

• Responsibility for the analysis and evaluation of the Department of Education's programs will be given to the Public Advocate. The Advocate's Office will have statutory authority to review all Department of Education documents and will receive all resources currently allocated to the Department of Education for the review and analysis of their programs.

• The Advocate's Office will be required to produce an annual report evaluating the progress of the Department of Education in advancing students' academic skills and social well-being, reducing absenteeism, increasing the high school graduation rate and any other measure that demonstrates success. The Advocate's Office would then produce reports based on an established schedule determined by when data is available.

5. Inherent in the system's design must be respect and support for all constituents.

• School leadership committees, representative of their schools' constituents, (staff, parents, students in the middle and high schools and their community under the leadership of democratically oriented principals decide the programs and teaching strategies best suited to their students. Teachers are to be respected for their experience and expertise in teaching and learning, and are to have an explicit role in developing, planning and implementing those activities that involve pedagogy.

• All schools provide a comprehensive education program including the core curricula areas, performing and visual arts, health and physical education, career and technical education, and technology.

6. Funding must be fair, equitable, transparent, with budget decisions made at the school level.

    A larger portion of the funding received by the federal, state and city will be managed by the schools. The school leadership committees will determine how funds are spent, with technical assistance to be provided by the Districts.

    Equitable funding developed by central staff and approved by the Central Board, with public oversight and input, will determine how much money each school receives. Budgets and expenditures at al levels of the system will be made available for review by the public. The City Council is to be involved in this process.

    The Office of the Public Advocate, which will have the authority to audit funding and spending, shall publish its findings and make recommendations.

    All contracts will be put out to open bid and made public.

7. School and District lines must be drawn in a way to preserve and strengthen the integrity of neighborhoods and communities.

    All registered voters and parents shall be eligible to vote for district councils.

    Non-registered parents can vote on separate voting machines at each poll site dedicated solely for the purpose of electing the councils or with a mail in ballot. While this will necessitate an additional eligible voters list, the input of the public is necessary in a democratic society that must take responsibility for schools.

• District councils will serve as a public forum for parents and community and serve as a liaison between the District and the Central Organization.  

8.  A system of checks and balances will be put into place to give voice to all constituents.

• Each constituent group will have an organization to provide training, assistance and to help guarantee its rights. The parents and students will each have a citywide organization independent of the DOE and school staff will be represented by their unions.

• The City Council will have non-voting representation on the Central Board.




Monday, January 08, 2024

Once Again, UFT Leadership Thumbs Their Nose At the Members

Parking private automobiles near our schools has been a contentious issue over the years. There is no doubt adequate parking is an integral part of teacher working conditions and we would expect that our Union would play a role in determining  the parameters of this benefit. 

We have seen this right, like most of our workplace rights, radically change over the years. Teacher parking passes were given to any teacher that wanted one, years ago. Under both the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations the Union has given back this right so that only a few of the parking passes are available to each school and the number of street parking spaces has dwindled.

In response to these concessions, in schools were administrators were sympathetic to the loss of parking privilege school yards and other city property became parking lots. Where the administrators were not so sympathetic the teachers had to find private lots or other parking far from their school if they wanted to use their private automobile for commuting.

In 2019, New York State enacted the MTA Reform and Traffic Mobility Act, directing the  MTA  to establish a congestion tolling program in the Manhattan Central Business District defined as Manhattan south of and inclusive of 60th Street, but excluding the FDR Drive, the West Side Highway, and any surface roadway portion of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel connecting to West Street. After extensive review a $15 fee was proposed for automobiles to enter the district.

New Jersey responded by claiming that the fee was unfair since, according to their lawsuit, a proper environmental impact review was not undertaken.

According to the Post our Union President called the Borough President of Staten Island several months ago to discuss this issue. The membership was neither notified nor consulted about what action, if any, should be taken.

With the New Year our beloved President, just as he is trying to strong-arm the erosion of health care benefits for our members and retirees decided to bring a lawsuit, along with the Staten Island Borough President, to stop congestion pricing. Our dues is paying the legal bills.

The lawsuit argues that Staten Island wasn't properly included in the environmental impact review and that Staten Island resident teachers (at least 7) might be forced to take public transportation to avoid the toll, something the 2019 law anticipated. The lawsuit also includes Michael Mulgrew who, as resident of Staten Island, would presumably be impacted by the congestion pricing. 

Our Union leadership has a history of unilateral and non-membership involved decision making. We must make certain we don't get shut out again!