Tuesday, March 4

City Council hearing offers hints of mayoral control reforms to come

Since the discussion of mayoral control has been heating up for a little while already, I was hoping at yesterday's City Council hearing on the subject to hear some concrete recommendations for how the city's school governance structure should be improved. But much of the morning session at least was spent conflating the issue of mayoral control with the myriad issues many parents, teachers, and advocates have had with the control exercised by Mayor Bloomberg. Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson repeatedly had to ask his colleagues to stay on task as they questioned Chancellor Klein on subjects as far-ranging as testing, the cell phone ban, and the progress reports.

Still, as council members discussed their frustrations with the current education administration, they also gave some hints about what the council's working group on mayoral control will recommend to lawmakers in Albany. It was clear from the council's questions that reverting to the old system of local school board control isn't a real possibility in 2009. Instead, and in keeping with its grievances of the last five years, the council appears to be seeking public — and more specifically, parental — checks on the mayor's power over education. Jackson said the group would likely recommend that the Community Education Councils, currently powerless, be given a formal, significant role in approving DOE decisions. David Yassky, one of the chairs of the council's working group, suggested that the CECs take on a role in the budget process similar to that which community boards play in the municipal budget progress.

And Jimmy Vacca, the third working group chair along with Jackson and Yassky, asked Chancellor Klein and Deputy Mayor Walcott what they thought about the creation of an independent research body being created to authenticate DOE data. "Having independent analysis is always a good thing," Klein said, noting that the DOE is in the process of setting up such a group right now. Later in the day, David Bloomfield suggested that the city's Independent Budget Office might be an appropriate home for the independent analysts, since that office is already "a reliable source of objective, professional budget analysis."

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