BY SEN. JOSEPH P. ADDABBO JR.
It doesn’t happen often in government that we get a golden opportunity to broadly improve the education of our children, but with the expiration of mayoral control of our school system and the pending negotiations to extend it, we have only one clear mission — let’s get it right for the sake of our children.
Mayoral control over New York City’s education system is up for renewal by June of this year. In this situation, my fellow government colleagues and I in the state Legislature can vote to pass, amend or cancel the 2002 law that gives the mayor and his administration the power to appoint a schools chancellor, oversee the system’s operating budgets and make decisions about how the city will try to lift student achievement across thousands of schools. The law also created the Panel for Educational Policy, in which eight of 13 members are selected by the mayor.
In this next session, as we discuss mayoral control, it is my intention to promote the extension of the law, but with revisions. It is important to have increased input from our teachers, administrators and parents, while also enhancing transparency of various educational processes. This would include implementing a public review when proposing to close a school and reforming our state’s method of standardized testing.
It would additionally be beneficial to eliminate schools’ mid-year budget cuts. I have visited schools and parent meetings within my district, seeking credible ideas and input on this important issue, and I will continue to do so.
Approving mayoral control allows the Department of Education (DOE), a city agency, to oversee our education system. Under the old Board of Education, there was neither transparency nor accountability. It was granted a $6 billion budget and the public had no clue of spending practices and few voters participated in school board elections. Under mayoral control and the DOE, the public is more aware of the budget, spending and the administrative process.
For example, anyone can visit the DOE’s website and open each school’s progress reports, pass rates and percentages, as well as other statistics.
A 2009 New York Post study showed that state reading and math exam pass rates in local schools, as well as the high school graduation rate, soared after the start of mayoral control, specifically in my district. This past year’s grading period, while still under the city’s control, student progress percentages show more than half of the district’s schools meeting or exceeding its targets.
We must prioritize our students and their best interests, and the numbers clearly show they excel while under local control. Giving our parents, teachers and administrators a greater voice encourages and welcomes their involvement, which in my mind is a recipe for success. Every school is different, every neighborhood is different, and nobody knows their own schools and neighborhoods better than those involved every day. With that, we can ensure each school, and therefore each student, is given the tools to succeed.
As the weeks and months pass in Albany, and mayoral control is discussed, I intend to make these facts known, as well as push for the revisions I believe are needed. As always, I welcome my constituents’ input, opinions and concerns. If I am equipped with your voice, I can take that with me to Albany. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on my Facebook page, Senator Joe Addabbo, or call any of my three district offices.
Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. represents the 15th District of Queens.
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