September 9, 2009
After all that hand-wringing about “checks and balances” and “mayoral accountability,” the school year has arrived, and the way the system is run is completely unchanged.
A revised law has been on the books for nearly a month, but the new system is still a mystery. Though the law calls for a new parent center, greater oversight of the Department of Education’s contracts, and an independent auditor of the department’s education data, all of these alterations are in their infancy, and none have been put in place.
Won as part of a deal between a group of runaway senators and Mayor Bloomberg, the parent center is perhaps the most concrete change with the least clear future. It will be housed at CUNY and will cost the city and state $1.6 million, but education officials have yet to define its role or how it will differ from the DOE’s current parent outreach, the Office for Family Engagement and Advocacy. Asked how far along the center’s development is, a DOE spokesperson had no comment.
The comptroller’s office, which has been given enhanced oversight of DOE contracts under the new law, is in a similar purgatory. Just as the position has gained new power, it has been caught in an election season that will endure until November, leaving neither the current office holder, mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson, nor his potential replacements, with the time take advantage of the law.
At the Independent Budget Office — the group chosen to double-check the DOE’s math — things are moving at a faster clip.
Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the IBO, said the organization is in the process of interviewing candidates for education-related positions, but did not have a set idea of what the education data analysis arm of the IBO would look like.
“We’re feeling our way a bit here as we figure out who’s out there. In tandem, we’re figuring out how to get this in place,” Turetsky said. “We’re talking to a variety of people from academics to advocates and everyone in between to get greater insight into where people’s concerns lie and what they’re interested in.”
One of the more immediate changes is taking place in the role of superintendent. Under the new law, superintendents will have greater supervision of principals and more oversight of schools’ budgets. District family advocates will also now report to superintendents rather than the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, reverting to the way the system worked before the office’s creation in 2007.