2009-06-05 / Editorial/Opinion

Give School Control Back To Professionals, Parents

The state legislature will soon vote on whether or not to extend the school governance law that allows the Mayor complete control over the public school system. The mayor has poured millions of his billions into convincing the electorate as well as the members of the legislature that he had done wonderful things as the "decider" for the school system. The daily papers, whose publishers are all beholden to Bloomberg in one way or another, have been running daily stories about how wonderful everything is now that the mayor is in charge. The fact is, as any teacher or administrator will tell you, the gains made under the mayor are illusionary and the amount of real education going on in the system as opposed to statistical gains on standardized tests has gone down precipitously. In addition, the mayor has cut parents, a key component in any student's education, completely out of the loop. If the mayor is to keep control of the schools, and it certainly looks as if he will, then some changes need to be made. First of all, there must be some local control over the local schools, and that means bringing district superintendents back into the picture in a role that includes more than rubber-stamping the chancellor's decision. Superintendents must have some oversight over the school administrations. The present system where some principals answer to a cohort in another borough or to nobody at all must go. Secondly, parents must be brought back to the schools. Each school has a School Leadership Team made up of administration, teachers and parents. In many cases, they function only as rubber stamps. The oversight those teams have over budget and curriculum must be reinstated. That team must also be intimately involved in the Comprehensive Education Plan developed by the school. Then, parents must have a place to go to speak about problems in the school. Now, there is no such security net. The district superintendents must fill that role. Community Education Councils must be allowed to fill a vital role in the schools rather than act as a rubber-stamp. They must be told in advance when major changes impacting their schools are anticipated, not told afterward what has been done. Finally, the citywide education council must be free of mayoral control. The members of that critical body must be chosen by parents and other city officials as a counter-balance against the mayor's dictatorial bent. This is a critical issue and our state legislature must take it seriously. It might be the most important thing they do this year.

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