Mayor Edward I. Koch of New York City, who is seeking to expand his control over the city’s board of education, has come under fire for removing the only Hispanic member of the board, Miguel Martinez, and replacing him with Richard I. Beattie, a white lawyer.
“Your actions are an insult to the two million Latinos in this city,” charged Angelo Falcón, president of the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy in a response to the Koch move. The New York-based advocacy group has differed with Mr. Martinez, Mr. Falcón said, but insists on the need to increase minority representation on the board.
About three-quarters of the city’s students are black or Hispanic. One of the seven school-board members, Marjorie A. Lewis, is black; the six others are white.
In a subsequent letter to Mr. Falcón, Mayor Koch called the group’s criticism “ill-conceived, nonconstructive, and generally foolish.” He pledged to resist any “ethnic, racial, religious, or sex quota” in appointments to the board.
“If it turns out that the seven persons most able to deliver quality education are Tibetan, so be it,” the Mayor said.
Efrain Parrilla, a spokesman for the Mayor, noted that in the past Mr. Koch has “heartily endorsed” Schools Chancellor Nathan Quinones and his predecessor, Anthony Alvarado, both of whom are of Puerto Rican descent.
A plan to expand the size of the board and give the Mayor the right to make a majority of the appointments-- changes that would require approval by the state legislature--recently won the support of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. Currently, Mr. Koch names two members and each of the city’s five borough presidents appoints one.
“The Mayor is saying, ‘I’m getting the blame and I don’t have the control’” over educational issues, according to Mr. Parrilla. While the idea of enlarging the Mayor’s complement of appointees has been “batted around” for several years, the spokesman said, the Governor’s support this year makes it a serious proposal for the first time.
Mr. Beattie, the Mayor’s new appointee, is a corporate lawyer who served as general counsel of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Carter Administration. He will join the board in April and is expected to be reappointed in June when four-year terms end for all board members.
In another recent appointment to the board, Mayor Koch named Robert F. Wagner Jr., a former deputy mayor, to serve out the term of the late Amelia Ashe. The Mayor plans to support Mr. Wagner for the job of board president, a post now held by James F. Regan, Mr. Parrilla said.
A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 1986 edition of Education Week