Public Rift Between Crew, Giuliani Grows in N.Y.C.

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Perhaps it was his choice of words, or maybe it was the sentiments behind them, but a proposal from Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to abolish the New York City school board has reignited a war of words between him and Schools Chancellor Rudolph F. Crew.

In discussing a plan to revamp the city's school governance structure, the mayor remarked that the "whole system should be blown up" and replaced with a new one.

The timing of the remark, coming just two days after a shooting and bombing rampage at a Colorado high school, was denounced by critics as particularly unfortunate.

Mr. Crew, in a strongly worded open letter released early last week, decried the mayor's "rhetoric of destruction." He said it demeaned all those with whom he had struggled to improve the 1.1 million-student system since arriving in 1995, and dismissed the progress that had been made.

In subsequent days, speculation revived that Mr. Crew might soon leave the system, a suggestion he strongly denied. But it was clear that the dispute had severely strained a formerly close working relationship that had already been damaged by Mr. Giuliani's proposal for a private-school-voucher plan. ("Giuliani Floats N.Y. Voucher Plan Run by City Hall," April 28, 1999.)

Mr. Giuliani wants state lawmakers to scrap the current school board in favor of one appointed by the mayor, ... la Chicago.

He argues that the board--composed of seven members, two appointed by the mayor and one appointed by each of the city's five borough presidents--is too wrapped up in provincial politics.

The Republican mayor, who is considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year, has the backing of the Democratic speaker of the City Council. But the leaders of at least one chamber of the state legislature--the Democratic-controlled Assembly--are steadfastly opposed to handing the schools over to the mayor. The legislature would have to approve any such change.

--Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 18, Issue 34, Page 9

Published in Print: May 5, 1999, as Public Rift Between Crew, Giuliani Grows in N.Y.C.
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