Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York last week proposed a sweeping package of legislation to reform the governance of the New York City school system.
"There is a consensus that the New York City school system is not providing a quality education to all of its students, and that a substantial overhaul is necessary,'' Governor Cuomo said in a statement.
In proposing his legislation, based on recommendations by a state commission, Mr. Cuomo formally joins the ranks of lawmakers and education leaders who have expressed frustration with what they see as the city school board's polarization. The board's 4-to-3 vote in February to dismiss Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez has added impetus to the push for basic changes in district governance. (See Education Week, March 24, 1993.)
The Governor's three-bill package proposes increasing the voting membership of the central board of education from seven to 11, with the number of members appointed by the mayor increasing from two to six and with the city's five borough presidents each continuing to appoint one member.
Mayor David N. Dinkins has proposed similar legislation, which is supported by the Democrats who control the state Assembly but is opposed by the Republicans who dominate the Senate.
Governor Cuomo also proposes ending the city's use of proportional representation in electing the nine-member boards of its 32 community school districts. It calls, instead, for each of the 32 community districts to be divided into three subdistricts that would elect three board members each.
The Governor's package also would create six borough-based administrative units for the operation of the city's high schools; establish a governance council at each city school; give the schools chancellor a role in the hiring of community-school-district superintendents; and appoint financial officers to oversee the city system and the local districts.
Los Angeles school officials were expected late last week to submit a controversial teachers' contract to the county office of education, which has the authority to decide if the agreement is financially sound, according to Patrick Spencer, a school district spokesman.
The agreement, which would restore 2 percent of a 12 percent teacher pay cut at a cost of roughly $36 million a year, was brokered in February by Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown Jr. just days before the United Teachers-Los Angeles was scheduled to strike.
In a letter to Mr. Brown this month, Superintendent Sid Thompson asked for help in obtaining new sources of funding to pay for the agreement. But the legislator insisted that the district could tap into its $31 million reserve fund, though it is unclear if school officials have the authority to do so. (See Education Week, March 24, 1992.)
The county office, which has 10 days to review the contract, could assume control of the Los Angeles Unified School District if it finds the district is incapable of restoring the cuts.
Vol. 12, Issue 29