On Tuesday May 31st, the State legislature released the bill to amend and renew Mayoral control of the city’s school system (A10499/S9459). The bill has some important changes that are responsive to our advocacy efforts, such as enabling CECs to interview a minimum of 3 candidates for superintendency, requiring a CEC representative on the District Leadership Team and adding an elected parent member with a child in a D75 program to every CEC. The bill also extends Mayoral control by two years, rather than four, and tasks the NYS Education Department Commissioner with reviewing and assessing school governance.
We appreciate tremendously the legislators who communicated with us throughout this process and fought for changes supported by the ECC. However, we are deeply dismayed by some of the amendments in the bill. In an effort to be responsive to as many stakeholders as possible, the law seems to have become a hodgepodge of disparate ideas without a cohesive vision for what this system should be. We share our concerns below.
Changes to City Board of Education (a.k.a., the Panel for Educational Policy or PEP)
Changes to Community District Education Councils (CECs)
Powers & duties of PEP and CECs
We requested enhancing powers and duties of the PEP and CECs to create more checks and balances. Unfortunately very little has changed. Here are some changes that were not included in the amended law.
Task Force to develop a democratic alternative to Mayoral control
We are pleased that there will be a process for a thorough review of the school governance. The law tasks the NYS Education Department Commissioner to review and assess school governance and to contract with an institution of higher education in doing this research. It is unclear if there is any funding set aside for this purpose. The Commissioner is also required to hold one hearing per borough to engage the rights holders.
We hope the Commissioner will create an advisory committee, working with the institution of higher education. Public hearings are welcome and necessary, but they are rarely the appropriate platform for thoughtful and in-depth dialogue among rights holders to consider and vet ideas.
This amendment process illustrated why we needed a task force. Some of the changes made are not in alignment with the realities of the roles in which we serve. As we feared, legislators ran out of time to have thoughtful and deliberate discussions regarding which immediate tweaks should be implemented to create more checks and balances, and which should be decided after the thorough vetting of a commission. We will continue to advocate for a better school governance system because this is about our children and the future of our City.