Board of Ed. rises from the dead; more cuts feared

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Mayoral control is over, the Board of Education is back, parents say city officials are still ignoring them — and classrooms could lose an additional $340 million.

“This is a joke that’s on par with what’s happening in Albany with the Senate,” said Martha Foote, whose son attends P.S. 321 in Park Slope.

With the resurrection of the Board of Ed, the city must return to the school funding system in place before the state legislature granted Mayor Michael Bloomberg total power over public schools in 2002. That means there’s $340 million earmarked for classrooms that may be redirected to the bureaucracy. This would be on top of a $452 million cut already planned for schools this September.

Education officials are now reviewing legal jargon to determine if they can forgo some of that $340 million cut but ultimately, “We have to follow the law so we’re going to do what is required to follow the law,” a Board of Ed source said.

In the meantime, the Board’s seven members are not accepting salaries.

Even though the Board of Ed is back in charge, it seems the group will preserve the policies of mayoral control.

The new Board — which includes three deputy mayors and three Bloomberg supporters — voted to keep schools Chancellor Joel Klein in power and appointed Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as president of the Board, thereby ensuring that Bloomberg will continue to rule, even though state legislators haven’t renewed the mayoral control law.

“It’s supposed to be an independent Board of Education but it’s at the service of the mayor,” Foote said. “There continues to be no consideration for parents or involvement for parents in their children’s education at this policy level. And, they continue to rule with an iron fist.”

“There’s something to be said for maintaining some continuity but that doesn’t require Deputy Mayor Walcott to be president of the Board of Ed,” agreed Jim Devor, a member of the Community Education Council (CEC) in School District 15, which includes Red Hook, Park Slope and Sunset Park.

In its eight−minute emergency meeting, which did not allow for public comment, the Board of Ed passed a resolution compelling the state Senate to back the revised mayoral control bill that the Assembly already approved.

By keeping Klein in power and voting to reconvene in September, the Board believes the Senate will have enough time to address its own internal squabbling and ultimately, reauthorize mayoral control. Education officials hope this will happen soon so there would be no legal mandate for the $340 million cut.

However, if the Senate doesn’t pass mayoral control legislation, the Board will begin “long−term planning” at its September meeting, explained Carlo Scissura, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s appointee to the Board.

It seems likely that Scissura, who left his post as District 20’s CEC president to serve as Markowitz’s chief of staff, would support implementing a mayoral control system at that September meeting.

“Marty Markowitz supports mayoral control. He supports parental involvement,” Scissura told this paper.

The city’s CECs, which replaced school boards, are also unsure of their future.

Technically, the return of the Board of Ed also means the return of school boards, which wielded significant power and, in some cases, were accused of corruption. But the law says school boards can’t elect new members until May 2010. That leaves parents without school boards or CECs. (Devor said education officials have acted accordingly and have not provided CECs with their $20,000 budgets for the 2009−2010 school year.)

“They now don’t recognize us. We do not exist,” Devor said.

A CEC in Manhattan passed a resolution asking Klein to recognize the council as the district’s school board.

Devor supports such a scenario but doesn’t think it will become reality.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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