By Eric Ulrich
In just a few short weeks, the legislative session in Albany will come to a close. While many issues important to New York City remain outstanding, the legislature should and must reauthorize mayoral control and give Mayor de Blasio the ability to improve our public school system. The 1.1 million students who attend public schools throughout the five boroughs are counting on the Assembly and state Senate to take action and make the right decision.
I have been, at times, a sharp critic of the current administration. But when it comes to ensuring a bright future for the children of our city, there can be no room for debate: Mayoral control works and Bill de Blasio deserves the same chance to help our children succeed as Mike Bloomberg was able to attain more than a decade ago.
Mayoral control has produced real results in reforming our education system and has placed the old bureaucratic model of dysfunctional school boards in its proper place—on the ash heap of history. New Yorkers are now able to hold the Mayor accountable for graduation and dropout rates, standardized test scores and other performance metrics. Mayor de Blasio has placed his trust and confidence in Chancellor Carmen Farina, a highly qualified and experienced administrator, to lead our teachers and principals in developing a robust curriculum that is tailored to meet the needs of each individual child in our diverse city. Why anyone, Democrat or Republican, would want to change that is simply unconscionable.
Despite fierce opposition from a small but vocal minority of so-called “advocates” who wish to turn back the clock, mayoral control has also empowered communities and substantially increased parental involvement through citywide and community education councils. Earlier this month, Chancellor Farina announced that voter turnout in the city’s local school board elections doubled and that many more parents ran for office and were involved in the process than ever before. Mayoral control has, without a doubt, created an environment of inclusion. Parents, not the special interests, now have a seat at the table to discuss how we mold the minds of our city’s most precious resource.
Instead of allowing this issue to be used as a political football every few election cycles, Albany should also make mayoral control permanent. This is the right thing to do and something that should have been done when the school governance law was initially passed in 2002. Former Mayor Bloomberg, despite his best efforts, was unable convince the legislature to take out the sunset provision of the law. This is a fatal flaw in the law and one that should be corrected this time around.
Mayoral control has laid the foundation for many of the mayor’s key initiatives including the expansion of universal pre-kindergarten and citywide after-school programs for middle school and at-risk students. These programs are making a big difference and would not exist under any other form of school governance.
The bottom line is simple: The buck should stop with the mayor, regardless of who he/she happens to be. Mayors come and go, but the progress we’ve made in reducing class size, closing the achievement gap and providing the best educational opportunities for our young people cannot be disputed or called into question. Let’s stop wasting time and work together to help our children learn, grow and succeed.
New York City Council