Education

Both Conservatives and Liberals Claim Victory in N.Y.C.

By Ann Bradley — May 26, 1993 3 min read
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As the results of elections for seats on New York City’s community school boards were released last week, both conservative and liberal groups were claiming victories.

The turnout--12.5 percent of registered voters, or 425,849 ballots cast--was the highest since 1970, when the school system was decentralized, according to the city’s board of elections.

As of late last week, results had been tallied for 22 of the city’s 32 districts, said Naomi Bernstein, an election-board spokeswoman.

The elections generated national attention when the Christian Coalition, a conservative group led by the Rev. Pat Robertson, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York joined forces to distribute voter guides highlighting candidates’ views on controversial social topics and parental rights. (See Education Week, April 28, 1993.)

The Christian Coalition said in a statement last week that early returns indicated that nearly 50 percent of the 130 candidates who took “pro-family’’ positions would win seats on the nine-member boards.

“The voters have spoken,’' the Rev. Terry Twerell, the head of the coalition’s New York office, said. “They wish to restore parental involvement and accountability in the schools.’'

But Barbara Handman, the New York director of the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way, said many of the candidates Mr. Twerell was referring to were in fact longtime incumbents, running unopposed, who already held conservative views on social issues.

In contested races, she said, liberals scored “major victories.’'

In particular, the Christian Coalition is claiming a victory in Districts 8 and 9 in the Bronx, where it says 12 out of 14 pro-family candidates won.

Conservative candidates also did well in District 31 in Staten Island and in Districts 27 and 29, according to both sides.

In competitive races targeted by People for the American Way and other liberal groups--including districts 1, 2, 3, and 5 in Manhattan--Ms. Handman said, “progressive’’ candidates were elected.

And in District 15 in the Bronx, a hotly contested race, a slate of candidates who favor teaching multiculturalism and tolerance for homosexuality were elected.

Corruption Targets Re-Elected

Overshadowed in the debates over such issues were a number of corruption scandals in local districts, including District 12. The week of the election, Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez removed the entire Community School Board 12 amid allegations of corruption and patronage.

But voters returned four of the board members who were implicated in the alleged wrongdoing, including the board president, who was called a central player in the scandal by the school system’s special commissioner of investigation. (See Education Week, May 12, 1993.)

Several candidates in District 9, including the board president, who also had been linked to alleged corruption, were re-elected.

At least three openly gay board members were elected in two Manhattan districts and in the Bronx.

In District 24, where board members battled the chancellor over the “Children of the Rainbow’’ curriculum, a Chinese-born woman was elected and will be the first minority member of the board, which oversees a district that is 95 percent minority.

In addition to the changes on community boards throughout the city, Carol A. Gresser, who cast the deciding vote against Mr. Fernandez, has been elected president of the citywide board of education. She succeeds H. Carl McCall, an appointee of Mayor David H. Dinkins, who was named the state’s comptroller.

The Mayor’s other nominee on the board, Westina L. Matthews, resigned for health reasons. In her place, the Mayor appointed Victor H. Gotbaum, a retired labor leader.

The election of Ms. Gresser, a conservative Queens volunteer, is viewed as a setback for Mr. Dinkins.

A version of this article appeared in the May 26, 1993 edition of Education Week as Both Conservatives and Liberals Claim Victory in N.Y.C.

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