School & District Management

N.Y.C. Mayor’s Strategy for Schools Is Drawing Flak

By Catherine Gewertz — May 21, 2003 1 min read
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A year after securing broad powers to run New York City’s schools, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is contending with mounting opposition, particularly to his attempt to eliminate 32 community school districts.

The local districts, which include mainly K-8 schools, were put in place largely to ensure that minority residents had a voice in how their schools were run. Because that structure is considered important to fair voting rights, any changes must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

But even before that hurdle can be cleared, Mayor Bloomberg has encountered objections within his own city and state.

Support from the United Federation of Teachers has crumbled. At the union’s spring conference on May 10, President Randi Weingarten lashed out at the mayor’s broad plan to improve schools, saying it was developed without enough help from teachers. The UFT filed suit earlier this month to block the planned layoff of 1,800 classroom aides.

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A Democratic state senator, Carl Kruger, filed suit in February to block Mr. Bloomberg’s plan to replace the 32 district offices with 10 regions. A Manhattan judge is now considering whether to allow state Assemblyman Steven Sanders, the city’s school administrators’ union, and others to add their names—and additional arguments—to that lawsuit.

At a hearing May 9, the groups asked state Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan to halt changes to the community school district offices or personnel. They contended that the June 2002 state law that gave the mayor greater school control did not authorize him to eliminate the 32 districts.

Ruling on May 12, Judge Ling-Cohan declined to issue that order, but instructed the city to preserve the status quo in the district offices until June 30, something its officials said they intended to do anyway. A hearing on whether the plan can proceed, and whether other groups can join the lawsuit, was set for June 3.

Mayor Bloomberg, in a statement, said he was confident that the court would ultimately rule in the city’s favor.

At a press conference, he called opponents of his schools plan “a handful of entrenched interests” whose objections only indicate he is on the right track.

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