New Era for City Schools
Assemblyman Steven Sanders
new school governance law, which Speaker Silver and I spearheaded
in negotiations with the Mayor and his top aides, will dramatically
restructure the way the school system operates, and I believe
it will prove to be a huge victory for the children and the future
for our school system.
Chairman of the Education Committee,
I worked intensively to negotiate the deal with the Bloomberg
administration to make the new law possible. We won a tremendous–—and
very important victory—by requiring in law that the Mayor, who
will now have central but not total control of the schools by
way of appointing
the Chancellor and naming a majority of members to a newly configured
Board of Education (BOE) will be legally bound to sustain, if
not increase, the City’s appropriation for the Board of Education
from one year to the next.
Also, I applaud the Mayor for dropping his insistence that he
be granted absolute control of the schools and that there no longer
be any form of central board. What we have achieved, in a sense,
is the best of both worlds: accountability plus continued public
debate with parental input. It was never acceptable to the Assembly
majority that the Mayor—any Mayor—should be given absolute
autonomy over education policy with no vigorous public debate.
This legislation ensures that decisions will be made openly and
in a manner that includes the public and the voices of parents
and the community.
Under provisions of the legislation, the Mayor will have sole
power to appoint the Schools Chancellor, who will head a 13-member
BOE, as well as sole power to appoint seven other members of the
board. The remaining board members, appointed by the borough presidents,
must be parents of children currently in public school in New
This is unprecedented. Never before were there any qualifications
at all for any members of the BOE, but now at least five —all
of the appointees of the borough presidents—must be parents, ensuring
that the parents’ voice will be represented in each and every
policy decision made by the Board.
District superintendents will be appointed
by the Chancellor. The board will no longer have a role in day-to-day
management decisions but will approve the school system’s budget,
capital spending plan and citywide educational policies and standards.
The Mayor will also have sole control of the School Construction
The plan will eliminate the city’s 32 community school boards
on June 30, 2003, and the Legislature will hold public hearings
in each borough in the fall to get the input of parents and communities
to ensure their involvement and participation in the development
of a new governance system at the community level. That process
is expected to lead to further legislation creating some form
of local or borough-wide entities that will effectively replace
the school boards. The school governance plan
also stipulates that the City may not reduce its contribution
to the education budget from one year to the next, except if City
revenues decline, which has happened only once in the past 25
years. Even then, if the revenue to NYC from all sources combined
drops— excluding State and federal aid—any year-to-year budget
reduction of City funding for the Board of Education would have
to be proportional to that drop. So a one percent drop in City
revenue could be followed by no more than a one percent cut in
City funding for public schools.
No Mayor will ever again be able to balance the City’s books on
the backs of our schoolchildren or respond to a dramatic rise
in State aid to education by actually cutting the City’s contribution.
The Assembly Majority has long been dedicated to ensuring that
every child in our state receives a quality education, and we
recognize that achieving this goal requires resources as well
as partnerships with educators, parents and other community members.
We have been successful in our efforts to create a new structure
for New York City school governance that incorporates these principles.
Finally, because history has shown that it is essential that we
have a chance to review results of sweeping governance changes,
the new law “sunsets” after seven years, when we’ll have the option
to renew it or make adjustments. We’ll see what will have worked
with Mayoral accountability and what may need to be improved.
With the governance debate over and a new contract in place between
the City and the teachers, it’s time to put the focus back on
the classroom. All in all, I am confident that what we’ve achieved
will—over time—make a difference there, where it really counts.#
Sanders is Chairman of the Education Committee. You can contact
him at email@example.com or by mail to 201 East 16th
Street, New York, NY 10003.
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