On Wednesday, June 17, 2009, I cast my vote against the mayoral control bill being considered by the New York State Assembly.
The bill was an extension of mayoral control with many changes aimed to address the concerns of parents and educational advocates.
The bill gives the School Leadership Teams “input” into the selection of its Principals and evaluation process. The schools would also have to align their Education Plan with their budget. The Community District Education Councils, which have had very little to do since inception, will be “given a greater opportunity to be heard” in the selection of Superintendents.
The role of the Local Superintendents is strengthened and allows them to address parents concerns and complaints and ensures that these Superintendents spend the majority of their time working in their respective regional office.
The Mayor still gets to appoint the majority of the members of the citywide Panel for Educational Policy.
I consider this vote the most important one to date because it directly impacts the future of the children not only in my district, but the city as a whole.
The school system has failed our children for decades, so it was no surprise that when Mayoral Control was suggested; the reins were willingly passed over to a mayor who volunteered to take full responsibility for the outcome of his plan IF we gave him full control.
The results are in. After almost six years of Mayoral Control, we are still failing our children miserably. In School District 8, only 45% of the seniors in the high schools were eligible to graduate this year. 62% of the student body in District 8 is Latino, which is representative of the growing presence of Latinos in the school system (and the city). Yet, while more Latinos are coming into our school system, the number of English Language Learner (ELL) programs continues to be cut. District 8 currently has ELL programs in just five schools. As a result, those students that need the services have to find a program in another school district. There is no busing to accommodate these children, particularly the younger ones who have just arrived from another country.
School District 8 is in my Assembly District, but the issues hold true throughout the City of New York. With Mayoral Control parents lost their voice, effective principals were replaced, schools were closed without input from the community, and members of the panel were fired for disagreeing with the Mayor.
The new bill seeks to create more transparency by mandating public notification of any proposed changes and mandating public notice and hearings prior to any school closing. However, an opportunity to speak out means nothing if our opinions continue to be ignored.
While the new bill calls for changes, it does not go far enough. The same mayor and administration that showed little interest in our opinions is still in charge, and the parents are still not fully participating at the table.
Improved test scores are a great step forward, yet when our schools have little if any arts classes, physical education, after school programs and other needed resources, we are simply not doing enough. Our children deserve better that is why I voted against this legislation.