School System: Unfinished Business
Assemblyman Steven Sanders
July 1, a new system of governance for the New York City public
schools was begun. This marks a truly historic new beginning for
The legislation, which I negotiated and which was passed into
law by the State Legislature, gives to the Mayor the power to
appoint a majority of the members to a recast central board of
education–now to be known as the Panel for Educational Policy.
It also allows the Mayor to unilaterally select and hire a Chancellor.
Each Borough President retains an appointment to the Panel, but
each of those five appointments must be a parent of a student
currently attending a public school in the city.
Moreover, the new Panel–or central board, as many will still call
it–retains important decision-making authority as it relates to
adopting a school budget each year, a capital budget and any budget
modifications. It must vote on any important policy issue, including
key contracts, matters dealing with privatization and systemwide
Gone are the days of a central board of education’s micro-management
of the system and interference with the Chancellor’s responsibility
to run the day-to-day operations of our vast school system of
1,100 schools and 1.1 million students.
Very significantly, the new law will prevent the Mayor from making
cuts in education so as to balance the city budget, as was the
all-too-often-used practice by previous mayors of both parties.
And state school aid increases to the city will not be available
for poaching–they can no longer be nullified by reductions in
city’s own total-dollar public schools appropriation.
Two matters of great importance still remain to be resolved. Currently,
the U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the power given to the
Chancellor to unilaterally appoint community district superintendents.
This review is necessary because any change in the powers
of the elected school boards (which previously nominated candidates
for superintendent subject to the Chancellor’s final say) are
governed by provisions of the Federal Voting Rights act.
In addition, later in the year, I will chair public hearings in
every borough of the city to consider how the current school boards
should be replaced when they are phased out on June 30, 2003.
What system should be instituted, community–or boroughwide–to
provide essential parental and community input into educational
policy? It is very important that the entities that are developed
to replace these school boards be representative of the people
who live in the various neighborhoods across the city, and that
they enjoy a much greater degree of credibility than most of the
elected community school boards, now on their last legs.
I am determined to insure that the parents, students, teachers
and all concerned citizens are given an opportunity to not only
shape the future of local education decision-making, but also
to actually participate, meaningfully, in the reforms we will
A schedule of these hearings will be posted on this page in future
Sanders is chairman of the NYS Assembly Education Committee. You
can contact him at 201 East 16th Street, New York,
NY 10003 (e-mail: email@example.com;
tel.: (212) 979-9696).
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