To the Editor:
With New York City’s mayoral-control law up for reauthorization this year, we have a unique opportunity to improve education leadership in the nation’s largest school system (“Bloomberg’s Way,” In Perspective, May 20, 2009). No one wants to derail the progress that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein have made under the current system of mayoral control, but improving upon it does not mean a return to a failed governance model.
Seeking a tune-up, not an overhaul, the New York State School Boards Association supports revising the 2002 legislation to make it clear that a citywide board of education, albeit appointed, has the legal authority to establish education goals and priorities, approve and monitor the city’s education programs and budgets, and open up communications to parents and the full community.
Currently, New York City does not have a functioning, representative school board, but a rubber-stamp “Panel for Educational Policy”—a term of art popularized by the mayor.
Here’s our solution: First, establish a fixed term for board members, so they cannot be removed arbitrarily. Second, someone other than the chancellor should serve as the president of the board. Third, all major policy recommendations should be submitted to the board by the chancellor for approval prior to implementation. Fourth, the board of education—its proper name—should be required to approve contracts over a set dollar amount.
New York should give people a way to respectfully express their opinions to decisionmakers honestly open to such advice and willing to act on it. This is how all public institutions should be run, especially school systems.
Timothy G. Kremer
New York State School Boards Association
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week as N.Y.C. Mayoral Control: Time for a Tune-Up?