June 17, 2009

Assembly Passes New York City
School Governance Legislation

Measure allows for more parental input, increases transparency and accountability

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan today announced the passage of New York City school governance legislation. The measure will provide parents with a substantially more meaningful structure to be heard and be involved in their children's education at all levels of the school system and provide the public with greater transparency about America's largest school district, while preserving the accountability that comes with mayoral control of the schools.

The new bill (A.8903-A) preserves the mayor's ability to appoint a majority of the members of the Board of Education, but requires at least two of those appointees be parents of public school students. It also expands the scope and type of policies and actions that must be put to a public Board of Education vote, with parents and the public having an opportunity to be heard during the board's deliberations.

"There is nothing more important than the education of our children," said Silver (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the original legislation that created mayoral control. "This bill strengthens and improves New York City's public schools by giving parents a more meaningful role and the ability to provide input at the school, community district, and city-wide level. At the same time, this measure preserves and improves the accountability that comes with mayoral control."

"During the many hours listening to dozens of parents, teachers and community members at our five-borough public hearings, we heard time and time again about the need for more parental participation," said Nolan (D-Queens). "This bill addresses this concern and makes the system more accountable to the public by providing for greater transparency of the school district's data and finances."

The new school governance measure will boost parental involvement at the school level by strengthening the role of School Leadership Teams in developing the school's Comprehensive Educational Plan. The bill also strengthens the community superintendents by reinstating them in the community districts, and provides them with expanded powers and the responsibility to address parent concerns, complaints and information requests.

The measure will also require the creation of a new citywide procurement policy for the Board of Education. The Independent Budget Office will have the expanded authority and resources to issue reports on all schools and student data including graduation rates and performance, class size, pupil-to-teacher ratios, student enrollment projections, school utilization, test scores and all matters related to the school system's budget and fiscal practices.

The bill will guarantee parents, students, staff and the public six months notice and an opportunity to review and comment on proposed school closings and changes in the use of local school buildings. The provision will require the chancellor to issue an impact statement on any such proposed changes and hearings to allow public input.

Once the bill passes the Assembly, it will be sent to the Senate for consideration. The current New York City school governance law, enacted in 2002, will expire on June 30, 2009.