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New York City
August 2001
Do you believe the current governance of the New York City public school system needs revision?

Herman Badillo (HB): I agree with Mayor Giuliani that we should abolish the School Board and that the Mayor should be directly responsible for the schools. We should have a Commissioner appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council. The Mayor would replace the School Board, and the Commissioner would replace the Chancellor. The current structure of the Board goes back to the decentralization battles of 1969. If the people who drafted the City Charter had the guts, they would have changed this the way they changed the other responsibilities of the Borough Presidents.

Michael Bloomberg (MB): The Mayor, with the advice and consent of the City Council, must have a Commissioner of Education who reports directly to him. Right now, the Board of Education is accountable to no one—and acts that way. As Mayor, I would strongly lobby the state Legislature to abolish the BoE. Until then, I would use my appointments to the Board, my influence in Washington and Albany and my access to the news media to bring about lasting change to public education.

Fernando Ferrer (FF): The so-called debate over whether to continue the Board of Education is just the latest way our would-be leaders have contrived to avoid a real debate over how to make our educational system meet and exceed expectations. We should be discussing how to improve teaching and learning in our schools. The idea that the Mayor does not have enough control over the school system is blatantly false: He controls union negotiations, appoints two members to the BoE, has great influence over the hiring and firing of Chancellors and effectively controls the budget.

Mark Green (MG): Yes. Like Chicago, NYC should move forward with reforms that give the mayor more direct control over the BoE. I’ve proposed that the Mayor appoint the Chancellor during a five year “emergency” period. At the end of that period, the State Legislature should review whether 1) the “emergency” has passed and 2) whether alternatives—that retain the basic concept of Mayoral control—should be considered. I would propose that there be an oversight committee, established by statute, to monitor the Mayor’s performance on the schools. This committee would be appointed by other high ranking elected officials, such as the Controller, and could report to the public independently on school performance.

Alan Hevesi (AH): While I believe the makeup of the Board should be changed, governance doesn’t mean anything unless there is a public school reform program. Having said that, I believe the Board should be enlarged to eleven members, six appointed by the Mayor and one by each Borough President. Each position should be defined in statute as to credentials. This would provide some real expertise and a mixture of expert people. The Board should include a teacher, a parent, an administrator, someone familiar with school construction, a former budget director, a teacher of teachers—a university educator. The Board should have two functions, and only two: to set broad policy within the mandate of the Board of Regents and to put into place a system of accountability. The Board should not micromanage the schools. If I get elected, and the law is changed to eliminate the Board, I could live with it. I don’t want to minimize the importance of governance, but it doesn’t mean anything without substance.

Peter Vallone (PV): Our school system is not accountable to the people who pay taxes to fund it. Therefore, since 1995, I have supported abolishing the BoE. In its place, I propose creating a NYC Department of Education that is directly accountable to City Hall. I believe that if the schools answered directly to the Mayor, the city would have the ability to reduce the bureaucracy, to hold every school accountable for its performance and to give the public school system to the people.

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