Montgomery: End mayoral control over city schools

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New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery

By Nico Simino
In a bid to end the “10-year experiment” of mayoral control of the city’s public schools, Fort Greene State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery has introduced a bill to over-haul and eventually end mayor Bloomberg’s grasp on the public education system.

If you give control to a person whose entire career is spent using and analyzing data, then don’t be surprised when all they [Bloomberg and the DOE] care about is data,” says Jim Vogel, a spokesmen for Sen. Montgomery. “Children now spend almost one third of their day just doing test prep.”

Under the proposed Senate bill the city would create an independent NYC Board of Education panel, to replace the current Panel for Educational Policy, which is spearheaded solely by the Mayor and the DOE.
The new board would have the authority to appoint the NYC Schools Chancellor and have control over educational policy. The bill would also allow parents and community education professionals to have a greater voice in the education process.

“Mayoral control does not work.” said Montgomery, “Control of our schools must be put back in the hands of educational professionals who have a deep understanding of our children’s needs—and the skills to produce positive educational outcomes.”

The proposed legislation also requires the new Board of Education to be comprised of individuals appointed by several entities that include: each borough president would get to appoint one member, the city council would appoint four members, and the mayor would appoint four members.

Among the stipulations for appointment are that some members would have to have a child currently in city schools.

“We need parents involved in their children’s education. We need schools that are focused not solely on test results, but on providing the best education. We need a Board of Education focused on an environment supportive of the achievement of all our children. This bill will provide for all these things,” said Montgomery.

The proposed bill would also require that the new board chooses the NYC schools chancellor. Under Bloomberg, every chancellor he has appointed had no background in professional education, which is required by the state for all schools chancellors, but the mayor received waivers to bypass the rule.
Opponents of the measure argue that this would take the system back to the “dysfunctional days” of the old Board of Education when there were too many local sub-departments and corruption.

“This legislation is an anarchist’s dream,” said Joe William, of Democrats for Education Reform.
“Have people forgotten about the corruption? It took forever to get anything done.” wondered Bay Ridge Sen. Martin Golden (R).

Sam Anderson from the Coalition for Public Education said the bill merely tweaks what’s already in place.
“It will not address the issue of who has the power to govern the DOE and eliminate the privatization of our public education system,” said Anderson.

The Mayor’s office has also charged that the legislators are doing the bidding of the United Federation of Teachers, who has seen their influence dwindle under Mayoral control, rather than serving the interests of students. But, as Vogel insists, “This isn’t about going back, but about moving forward.”

“I don’t really know too much about this issue,” said Gwendolyn Brown, a parent at P.S 289 George V. Brower in Crown Heights. “But I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Under current law, Mayor Bloomberg’s control of the public school system is not up for renewal until 2015.

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