2008-11-28 / School News

Thompson: Mayoral Control In Schools Needs Fixing

DOE Needs Transparency, Accountability
By Miriam Rosenberg

Now that the general election is over, New York City's leaders and citizens are turning their attention to next year's battle in the state legislature over renewal of the 2002 law, which is set to expire in June, that mandated mayoral control of city schools.

That issue was at the center of a speech given by Comptroller William Thompson earlier this month in Far Rockaway.

Thompson, who has announced his candidacy for mayor, spoke at the First Annual Education Conference - Part 1 hosted by State Senator Malcolm Smith and the Church of the Nazarene on November 15.

In his address to local residents and other participants of the conference, the former president of the Board of Education said he supports mayoral control, but not in its current form.

"Since 2002, the education budget in the city has increased by over 46 percent. "Where's the money going? If it's not going into the classroom, where's it going?

It's a disgrace," said Thompson, who added that with mayoral control comes greater responsibility.

"Whatever changes are made, in its current form, it [mayoral control] isn't working for all the people in the city," said Thompson.

While the Department of Education is not being open with how their funds are spent, they also seem to be keeping parents out of the loop.

"I have never seen a time in the educational system's history that parents know less about what is going on and have less of an opportunity to go someplace [for answers]," continued Thompson, who stated that even local city officials find it hard to get answers to inquiries made to the DOE.

In its current form, Thompson said, even he as comptroller cannot find out what the process is for no bid contracts.

He pointed to one such contract, which eventually led the DOE to change bus routes last February and kept students waiting for buses in the dead of winter.

"[The change in bus routes was] based on some recommendation from a consultant who didn't know what they were talking about," he said.

Thompson made several recommendations for change.

"We need to improve it so parents have input. We need to improve the fiscal structure of the DOE. We need for them not to make decisions behind closed doors and then tell us that was a fact.

We need to make sure that input is sought and a discussion is held across the city," said the comptroller.

Thompson, who has testified about the issue of mayoral control before the Gottbaum Commission and others, said he would continue to voice his opinion in Albany and in New York City in the coming year.

"We need to make sure we move forward and get this right. I support responsible mayoral control that allows the involvement of the people who are part of the system - teachers, principals - and allows and hears the voices of parents and our children."

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