Education System that NYC Deserves
Assemblyman Steven Sanders
question of how to arrive at the most effective and optimal form
of school governance has vexed educational and political leaders
for over a century. Since the consolidation of the five separate
boroughs into one unified city and one unified school system in
1898, there have been nine different constructs established to
operate the public school system.
Today we are engaged in a vigorous debate as to what structure
of education decision-making will help insure a quality education
system for our schools and the 1.1 million students they serve
in the 21st Century.
I believe that any new structure must include the following principles:
a central board of education that deals with important policy
but not micro-management; a Chancellor with the authority to make
day-to-day education decisions and implement policy; a Mayor that
has appropriate influence over the selection both of members of
the central board and of the Chancellor; meaningful parental involvement
in the local schools and local school districts and public input
into the development of important education policy; and financial
resources to make our school system competitive with surrounding
suburban school districts, which currently fund public education
at a rate about 50 percent higher than New York City.
The continuation of a central board, in some form, is essential.
This is true not only because every city and every school district
in the United States has a central board, but also because policy
decisions for public education should not be made in secret and
must allow for public and parental input. Running a public school
system simply is not the same as administering the Sanitation
Department, or City parks, for example.
And how schools educate the children of this city is a vital concern
to parents, and parents, therefore, must have a voice in that
Any Mayor of this city must have an appropriate level of influence
and accountability for public education policy and academic outcomes,
but in a democracy we allow for other voices to be heard and an
avenue for dissent. The Mayor must have the ability to shape the
Board of Education and to have a leading role in the selection
of a Chancellor. But no Mayor should have—or needs—exclusive or
dictatorial powers over education policy to the exclusion of the
public or parents.
A Chancellor must also have clear and unequivocal powers to run
the day-to-day operations of the sprawling system. Neither the
central board nor the Mayor’s office should be involved in micro-management.
That should be the job of qualified administrators with no political
ax to grind.
If we are wise enough to devise a new paradigm for public education
governance but we continue to under-fund the system, improved
academic results will elude us and our children will lose out.
If public education is our No. 1 priority, as it should be, we
must insure that we do not continue to lag behind other districts
in the money invested. Currently NYC pays its teachers 30 percent
less than nearby suburban districts. We have class sizes 30 percent
larger in the elementary schools. We have hundred-year-old overcrowded
school buildings that are not equipped with technology of the
21st Century. To remedy these problems and meet the State’s higher
learning standards will require a greater investment on the part
of the City. Otherwise all our well-intentioned and thoughtful
governance reforms will falter.
During the next few weeks I will be devoting every effort to provide
the necessary reforms to insure that NYC reclaims its place as
the city with the finest public school system in the nation. This
can most certainly be accomplished if we have a sincere desire
to arrive at a consensus and if we commit to the investment of
ample levels of resources by both the State and the City. This
is a framework for accountability that will show up where it matters:
in every classroom.#
Sanders is Chairman of the NYS Assembly’s Education Committee.
You can contact him either at (212) 979-9696 or at email@example.com.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of
the publisher. © 2001.