2002-07-13 / Community

Greenberg: School Deal Will ‘Silence Citizen Participation’

By Howard Schwach

Greenberg: School Deal Will
‘Silence Citizen Participation’
By Howard Schwach

Steven Greenberg, the president of Community School Board 27, has fired off a letter to the U.S. Justice Department detailing his concerns about the new school governance law that calls for the phase out of local school boards as well as the placing of the power to hire school superintendents into the hands of the chancellor.

Greenberg says that he sent the letter to the Justice Department because that agency has the veto power over local laws that impact voting rights, and the board president believes that the new law will have such an impact.

"The result of the law will be to silence the participation of taxpayers and citizens of New York City," Greenberg said in his letter to Joseph Rich of the Civil Rights Division. "The legislation discriminates against minority voters by removing their right to elect the representation of their choice."

Greenberg told The Wave, "It is interesting that the Justice Department has given the mayor the right to pick his own board of education and to choose the chancellor, but has so far not ruled on the school board issue."

The long-time board president thinks that the federal agency may well veto the portion of the law that would phase out local school boards by June of 2003 and replace them with another mechanism for community input.

In his letter, Greenberg says, "The effect of both the immediate changes to the powers of the local boards and the subsequent elimination of local community school boards has the effect of worsening the position of minority voters in the covered counties of Queens…"

"The rumors are that the State Assembly went along with the changes because they knew that the federal government would never allow the end of school boards," he says.

A committee of 20 state legislators, ten Democrats and ten Republicans, has been set up to come up with a plan for local bodies to replace the school boards. That committee has yet to meet, according to legislative sources, although the new plan was originally scheduled to be submitted to August 15.

"The Justice Department is the last step, the only thing that will save the local boards," Greenberg told The Wave. "This is not a done deal and there is nothing in place to replace us."

"It will not be easy to ‘sunset’ us out," he said with a laugh.

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