Parents say ‘tweaking’ mayoral control won’t cut it

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The state Assembly’s mayoral control bill “just doesn’t go far enough” in providing a real checks and balances system, parents say.

The legislation being reviewed by Assembly members (a vote had yet to be cast by press time) offers some changes from the current system — but parents say they’ll still be shut out of the decision−making process.

“This is a disappointment if this is what tweaking mayoral control is coming down to because I don’t think that any of these new proposals really put any substantive decision−making authority in parents’ hands,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of the Community Education Council (CEC) in School District 22, which spans Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

Under mayoral control, parents complained that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Department of Education (DOE) officials ignored their concerns and denied them real input.

The system outlined in the Assembly bill calls for changes to the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), which is the new form of the old Board of Education.

Under the existing mayoral control law, the PEP has been led by schools Chancellor Joel Klein and controlled by Bloomberg, who appoints the majority of members.

The Assembly bill would continue to allow the mayor to appoint eight of the 13 members but two must be public school parents and the chancellor could no longer serve as chairperson.

“They did not alter the PEP to any meaningful degree,” said Martha Foote, whose son attends P.S. 321 in Park Slope. “It will serve as a rubber−stamp body that will allow anything that Bloomberg wants to go through. It will continue to be the bogus oversight board that it always has been.”

At press time, a bill had been introduced in the state Senate that would limit Bloomberg’s power over the DOE by not allowing him to appoint the majority of PEP members.

“The school governance bill that I sponsored I would like to put forth or look at their bill and look at our bill and see if there can be some compromises,” said Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson.

With the state legislature in total chaos, there are fears that a new school governance bill will not be voted on before the current mayoral control law expires on June 30. After that time, the school system will revert back to its former structure — with powerful school boards and district superintendents.

Apparently, at least one state politician wouldn’t mind that.

“On July 1, I’m going to call for a panel to recommission the school boards and begin the mechanism for elections,” State Senator Carl Kruger told this paper. “That’s what the law says we must do.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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