October 17, 2012
Most education policy wonks in the city are focused on 2013, when New Yorkers will elect a replacement for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But in a new report, a teacher advocacy group suggests that 2015 might be more important.
That’s when mayoral control, the city’s school governance system since 2003, is set to expire. Bloomberg convinced lawmakers to grant him control over the city’s schools early in his tenure, but they built a sunset clause into the law so they would have to reconsider the governance structure every six years.
By the time of the first sunset in 2009, criticism that Bloomberg’s school policies had marginalized communities had grown loud enough to derail a first effort to renew the governance law by the June 30 deadline. Mayoral control technically ended then, although a hastily constituted Board of Education effectively extended it in a nine-minute meeting, its first in six years. But lawmakers reinstated the law, with some tweaks, a month later. It is next due to sunset on June 30, 2015.
Teachers Unite, a group that emphasizes social justice in education, wants to start laying the groundwork for a post-mayoral control future now. In a report issued today, the group says that a survey of 500 teachers found that not only do the vast majority feel unable to influence city policy decisions, 20 percent also said they are unable to influence decisions at their own school. This situation, the report argues, is a trickle-down effect of consolidated power at the top.
Supporters of mayoral control may decry the eﬀectiveness of the former community school boards; however, teachers, parents, and students overwhelmingly favor a democratic structure with meaningful opportunities for participation. The ﬁndings indicate that the policy of mayoral control should be allowed to expire no later than 2015, while preparations should immediately begin for orienting New Yorkers to engage in educational leadership at the community level.
A major change that could start happening now, the report argues, is the empowerment of School Leadership Teams. The teams of school staff and parents are supposed to set the agenda and budget for their schools. But Teachers Unite found that nearly 60 percent of the teachers it surveyed said they did not think they could influence their school’s policies through the SLT.