Published Online: March 27, 2002
Published in Print: March 27, 2002, as Urban Education

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Mayoral Control

Eager to take control of the nation's largest public school system, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is promoting his view of school governance at every turn.

At public appearances this month, the Republican mayor has taken shots at the city's board of education, which he hopes to abolish, while beginning to reveal his plans for the district.

His latest proposal calls for relocating the board of education's main offices from 110 Livingston St. in Brooklyn to the renovated Tweed Courthouse located behind City Hall in Manhattan. The district's new home also would house an experimental school.

Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, a former member of the city's school board, said the new headquarters would raise the district's profile and shed the negative bureaucratic image tied to 110 Livingston St.

The mayor isn't alone in his push for a direct role in overseeing the 1.1 million-student district. Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican who is seeking a third term next fall, and Democratic gubernatorial challenger Andrew M. Cuomo back mayoral control of the New York City schools.

Even the local teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers, has reversed its stance against mayoral control of the school system.

Under a proposal adopted by the City Council's education committee last week, the mayor would appoint a chancellor (subject to council approval) and six members of an 11-member school board.

But H. Carl McCall, the state comptroller and Mr. Cuomo's opponent in the contest for the Democratic nomination for governor, doesn't think the schools' problems will be solved if the board is eliminated. He does believe that the mayor needs to have greater input into the district's affairs, though.

"What we need is a real comprehensive reform plan," said Steven Greenberg, a McCall campaign spokesman.

For now, New Yorkers seem to be split on the issue. A recent poll found that 50 percent of those surveyed believed the schools should be run by the board of education. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll of 1,280 city residents, also found that 61 percent of African-Americans and 73 percent of Hispanics supported the current system, compared with 38 percent of whites. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

"Clearly, public opinion is not what's leading this," said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. "This suggests that [Mr. Bloomberg] is going to have do some convincing."

—Karla Scoon Reid kreid@epe.org

Vol. 21, Issue 28, Page 10

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