2009-05-15 / Editorial/Opinion

Changes Needed In Public School Governance

Now that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has jumped on the bandwagon of those politicians urging that the state legislature extend the mayor's control of the city's public school system, the outcome seems to be all but certain. It would be a shame, however, if the members of the state Assembly and Senate, many of whom are beholden to Bloomberg for contributions, programs for their districts and private fundraisers, vote for the extension without some basic changes. Even an expert such as New York University Education Professor Diane Ravitch, who wrote about school governance in her book, "The Great School Wars: New York City, 1805-1973," thinks that the Bloomberg stewardship has been bad for the city's schoolchildren. "On the federal National Assessment of Education Progress - widely acknowledged as the gold standard of the testing industry - New York City showed almost no academic improvement between 2003, when the mayor's reforms were introduced, and 2007," she wrote in a recent New York Times Op Ed piece. Ravitch points out that some of the worst marks on that test went to cities that have mayoral control. She also wrote that the mayor's statistics that show great growth are "spin" at best and fabrications at worst. She calls both the rising graduation rate and the growth on standardized tests "suspect." Despite the warnings of experts such as Ravitch, however, the state is poised to keep Bloomberg in control. If they do, some change should be made, the major and most important of which is to give parents more of a voice. The present Panel on Educational Policy serves at the pleasure of the mayor and rubber-stamps the policies and spending practices of the Department of Education, Ravitch says. She is more than correct. Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein have become dictators, with the DOE and the Panel on Educational Policy acting not as a moderating force, but as a rubber stamp. That is not what we need in this city. When Audrey Pheffer, Michelle Titus and their friends in the Assembly sit down to figure out what the new law should be, we would hope that they think of the kids this time around, and not just of the political ramifications of bucking the mayor.

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