2008-09-19 / Editorial/Opinion

Put Control Of The Public Schools In The Hands Of Professionals And Parents

The mayor wants control of the public schools at any cost, even though he has caused so much chaos in the schools and skewed the system so badly that it may take a decade or more for it to recover from his stewardship once he leaves office next January. That is, unless he flimflams the City Council into giving him, and itself, four more years. Recently, close allies of the Bloomberg administration have set up a political organization to campaign for the renewal of the state law giving the mayor complete control over the system. Bloomberg and his friends have poured an opening $20 million into the organization, which will run advertisements and lobby state legislators to get what he wants. They shouldn't have to work too hard, because our local state legislators are already on board. Assemblywoman Michelle Titus once worked as an attorney for the Board of Education. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer was on the committee that passed the flawed school governance law in the first place. Pheffer seems really to believe that the mayor has done a good job in governing our schools simply because reading scores and graduation rates have risen. What she does not understand is that the uptick in education is all smoke and mirrors. Scores have risen, but what we all think of as education — teaching the ability to think, process information and then make decisions based on that information — has all but gone the way of the buggy whip. Graduation rates have climbed simply because the requirements for graduation have been eviscerated. It is clear, at least to us, that school governance should be handled by those who really know what is going on and who have a dog in the hunt - educators and parents — not by politicians and corporate lawyers. We know the problems created by the late and unlamented school boards - corruption, cronyism, racism, etc. The state legislature, however, threw out the baby with the bathwater. Now, parents have no say. First, change the law to bring back local school boards and then require the majority of those boards be parents with children in district schools. Then, empower principals, but make sure that those principals have the background and expertise to be principals. Don't give us "six-month wonders," graduates of the elite "Tweed Academy," who are nice people, but have no right being school principals until they have served some time as teachers and assistant principals. Give the schools back to the people who really care that students learn for life, not those who just want to see scores go up at any cost, just to prove a political point.

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