We Abolish The BOE?
the new mayoral administration now in place, the longstanding
debate over who should call the shots in New York City school
district is once again at the forefront of public discussion.
Mayor Bloomberg has picked up where Rudy Giuliani left off—pushing
for the last say in all decisions affecting the 1.1 million students
in the system.
At a policy conference about educational change held at Baruch
College recently, Democratic Assemblyman Steve Sanders questioned
the prudency of such a move. His words of caution came on the
heels of his admission earlier in the week that some mayoral control
of the school district now seems inevitable.
Sanders, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, has long
fought against installing the mayor at the head of the district.
He made it clear that he has not softened philosophically on the
issue during the conference, at which New York City Board of Education
President Ninfa Segarra argued in favor of the mayor and city
councilwoman Eva Moskowitz also spoke.
don’t believe it’s the magic bullet,” Sanders said. “We need to
build in more accountability and balance so that his is not the
only voice or opinion that matters.”
The 200-year tradition of civic engagement in education sets it
apart from other mayoral-controlled areas of government, Sanders
said. “There has to be a place where parents and the people have
access to the system.”
Although the state legislature is considering how to reshape the
administrative structure of New York City’s public schools, dismantling
the Board of Education is not an option, Sanders said.
But in what is a recent policy shift, Sanders said he does agree
with more mayoral oversight in the school board.
Albany legislators could work out a compromise to keep the idea
of a school board intact, but also allow Mayor Bloomberg to appoint
more members or to select the chancellor. But Sanders did not
discuss the specifics of any proposals on the table.
Regardless of the administrative structure of the system, New
York City schools students need more resources to be successful,
expectations we have properly set high, we need more resources,”
he said. “A blackboard, chalk and a book is no longer the technology
One possilbe tradeoff for giving the mayor more control could
come in the form of increased fiscal oversight from the state.
City budget cuts undermine the quality of education for students,
and so does the bureaucratic and inefficient distribution of funds,
said Board of Education President Ninfa Segarra.
am quite clear the central board should be abolished,” said Segarra,
one of two mayoral appointees on the seven-member board. “It’s
a pit of inequity.”
Segarra, who has sat on the Board of Education since 1991, has
pushed for dismantling the institution since becoming Giuliani’s
mayoral appointee in 1994.
The system charged with educating the city’s children is so complex
that most parents do not know where to appeal for change, she
said. Many people go to the mayor because they believe he controls
education the way he does other areas of city policy, she said.
never been to a town hall meeting with the mayor where somebody
didn’t mention education,” Segarra said. “That would be the expectation,
that the mayor makes the decisions.”
But most parents are less concerned with who makes policy than
the quality of their children’s education, said Councilwoman Eva
Moskowitz, a former fifth-grade teacher and chair of the City
Council Commission on Education.
not sure that’s the point at which parents desire input,” she
said. “They want to have a say at the school in what affects their
child day to day.”
Moskowitz said that no single individual can transform an entire
system. “I’m opposed to the ‘great man’ theory of history,” she
said. “It’s a question of management.”
Moskowitz and the city councel held a week of public meetings
on the subject, inviting leaders in the field of education, Mayor
Bloomberg, former Mayor Ed Koch and Chicago’s Mayor Richard M.
Daley who oversees education in that city, along with teachers,
administrators and parents to speak.#
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