Mayoral Control And Parental Input
New York City parents already have a great deal of "input" into the public education of their children. Schools have Parents Associations or Parent-Teacher Associations, Parent Coordinators and School Leadership Teams. Parents are surveyed, as a crucial element in School Quality Reviews. The membership of the Community District Education Councils is super-majority parents. Further, Tweed's Office of Parent Engagement reaches out to parents citywide. And as a member of the Queens Borough President's Education Advisory Board, I have seen searing questioning of the top officers of Department of Education from parent members.
So with all this "input" why do parents remain marginalized? Well, simply stated, input isn't control; heck, it's not even influence. No one at Tweed or in any school is required to heed parental voices. Yet members of the New York State Assembly Committee on Education during the recent public hearing on Mayoral Control (Queens Parents Give Mayoral Control of Schools a Low Grade, February 6, 2009, p. 6) kept on hearing, and talking about, the need for parents to have greater "input," "say" or "voice," which, even if granted, gives an illusion of control, while granting not a bit of it. What these august legislators did not want to hear or to talk about, or even to think about, in this writer's opinion, is the idea of "parent control."
By law both legal and moral, parents have the responsibility for the education of their children. Yet, especially under Mayoral Control, the power to get that responsibility done is completely taken away. Dictates from Tweed on everything from cell phones to curriculum to instructional methods to assessment are imposed regardless of parental wishes. Now, under the old Community Control decentralization parents were almost as shortchanged. Still, when decisions affecting children are made at the local district level, especially when policy and practice are set and overseen by the parents with the help of the professional educators, the schools should become more sensitive to individual student needs and responsive to parental concerns, making it possible for parents to truly satisfy the responsibility to their children.
Conventional wisdom says the State Legislature has only three choices in Mayoral Control: keep it the way it is; return the system to the bad old days of decentralized community control; or keep it with slight modifications to increase "meaningful" parent input and to provide more defined places for parents to go when in need of information. There is a
Letters fourth choice which NYC parents need but the deaf legislature will not consider: abolish Mayoral Control in favor of decentralized super-majority parent Community Education Councils having all the powers of the older school boards, and transform the Panel for Education Policy into a parent super-majority Central Education Council with many of the responsibilities of the older Central Board of Education. Oh, it would benefit the highest stakeholders, the children, if these Councils would representative.
LEO J. FAHEY