2002-01-05 / Editorial/Opinion

No Place For Borough Presidents

No Place For Borough Presidents

Three of the incoming borough presidents have said that they are ready to appoint themselves to the Board of Education rather than appointing a representative, as has been done in the past. The new Queens Borough President, Helen Marshall, is one of those three. That would be a big mistake. The last thing we need on the Board of Education is more of the "let’s make a deal" mentality that has marked the position of borough president ever since the new City Charter did away with the Board of Estimate and much of the power of the BP’s. A close look at the recent revised capital plan would be instructive. Chancellor Levy cut a number of new schools so that the much-needed schools in Queens could be constructed. Borough President Claire Shulman, under intense pressure by Mayor Giuliani to provide a school for Staten Island (where the schools are already underutilized) wanted to give up one of the new Queens high schools in order to allow for both a Staten Island middle school and a Manhattan middle school to be built. Giuliani put on the pressure in response to Staten Island’s Borough President Guy Molinari’s request that he needed a Staten Island school for political rather than educational reasons. Shulman’s appointee, Terri Thomson, who has done many good things for Queens and for Rockaway, refused to give up the Queens school, however. In the final budget, there are no schools for Staten Island, nor are any needed. The closed-door wrangling over schools underlines how political the process already is. It would be much more so should the borough presidents be directly involved in the process. The Corporation Counsel has ruled that it would be conflict of interest for borough presidents to sit on the school board. We agree. This is not the time nor the place for more politics as usual when dealing with the schools.

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