New York City Mayor’s Race: Ideas for Schools Post-Bloomberg

By Lesli A. Maxwell — July 17, 2013 4 min read
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The end of Michael Bloomberg’s dozen-year run as New York City’s mayor is on the near horizon and a crowded field of candidates is jockeying to replace him.

So, who’s running (other than former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who, in spite of the disgraceful circumstances that forced him from public office in 2011, has cannonballed into the race and become its frontrunner)? And what are the candidates’ plans for the nation’s largest school system that they would control if elected?

Gothamschools.org has the most comprehensive, easy-to-digest coverage I’ve seen of the large field of candidates and their education ideas.

Most mayoral hopefuls have signaled they are not inclined to completely stay the course that Bloomberg has set since winning authority over the 1.1 million-student system at the outset of his first term. The process he used to shut down underperforming schools, as one example, wouldn’t be replicated by most, if any, of them, and several candidates don’t favor the same level of proliferation of charter schools as Bloomberg.

Here’s a small flavor of the K-12 ideas that the major candidates are pushing.

First, the Democrats:

City Comptroller John Liu just yesterday put out a report citing the school system’s student-suspension and -arrest data to advocate for an overhaul of school disciplinary practices. Liu said he would dramatically ramp up the number of counselors at the city’s middle schools, do away with long-term out-of-school suspension, and give authority over school safety to principals, not the city’s police department. The new report is the latest in a series that Liu’s office has produced over the last year that focus on his ideas for improving public schooling in New York City.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the candidate most aligned with the policies of Bloomberg (she was sitting next to him at last night’s All Star game), has championed the idea of a virtual “parent university” for New York city families who want to better understand how to navigate and influence the school system. She’s also pushing for a “red alert,” or early-warning system, to flag struggling schools for attention and intervention before steps would be taken to close them.

Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, would raise taxes on city residents earning $500,000 or more to help pay for universal preschool and after-school programming for middle school students. He’s said he would require more community input in decisions that have been particularly controversial under Bloomberg—co-locating charter schools in buildings with traditional schools being a major one.

William Thompson Jr., a former city comptroller, would reshape the city’s 13-member board of education, which under mayoral control, has been dominated by Bloomberg’s eight appointees. Under Thompson’s proposal, the mayor would appoint only six members, leaving the chancellor of the City University of New York to appoint a member, along with leaders of community education councils each getting to name an appointee. He’s also pushing for more robust community input into where to provide space to the city’s burgeoning charter schools.

Sal Albanese, a former teacher and former member of the city council, has said he would “repair” the distrust that the city’s teaching ranks feel toward the mayor’s office. He would also invest more in early-childhood programs, including putting a sharp focus on programs serving children from birth to 3 years old.

Anthony Weiner favors teacher compensation reforms and points to Denver’s model of paying teachers higher salaries in exchange for giving up hefty pension benefits after they retire. He’d also push for policies to support the preservation of Catholic school education, and wants to put a “Kindle in every backpack.”

And now the Republicans.

John Catsimatidis, a business executive, is on record as favoring the closing down of underperforming schools.

Joseph Lhota, who served as the city’s transit director, favors continued strong mayoral control and would use closures as a way to address chronically underperforming schools. He’s also a proponent of allowing more charter schools to open around the city.

George McDonald, who runs a nonprofit that assists ex-convicts and homeless people in finding jobs, would also favor strong growth in the charter school sector. He recently proposed an idea to set up, through a public-private partnership, universal savings accounts to pay for college for all public school kindergartners.

And one Independent candidate, Aldolfo Carrion Jr., a former borough president of the Bronx who also worked as classroom teacher, would lift the cap on charter schools in the city. He has also said he would only appoint an educator as chancellor of the city’s school system.

The primary election is in September; the general election happens in November.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.