Future of Education
I am more optimistic today about the future of NYC public schools
than during my past 43 years as an educator. I have seen it all:
centralized and decentralized systems, management by committees
and fiat, and every conceivable educational fad and fancy. No
matter what was done, it seemed, nothing would turn our huge educational
system around. Of course, we made strides here and there. We worked
hard adjusting to new philosophies, new faces, new regulations,
and new strategies.
But during the course of my career, I began to lose heart. Nothing,
it seemed, worked in
the eyes of the media. Whether real or manufactured, we were chastised
for our lack
of progress. Superintendents first, then Chancellors, came and
went. Everyone was blamed: kids, their parents, teachers, principals,
superintendents, chancellors, mayors, governors, the infamous
Board of Education, the unions, and perpetually, the scarcity
of critical resources.
Yet, at this moment I am feeling hopeful. An undefined positive
energy has begun to emerge around our public schools. For the
first time, in a long time, we have a Mayor who is proactively
working for our schools. Mayor Bloomberg has demonstrated this
by holding fast to his vision of a new governance structure and
accountability. It is surprising that a political neophyte has
achieved what skilled politicians before him were unable to do–accept
personal responsibility for our city’s schools. His tenacious
commitment to being accountable for educating our children is
The new governance structure, one that I did not advocate, presents
a challenge to all of us because it is not just tweaking around
the edges of reform. It is a system solidly designed to accomplish
its goals. It is almost irresistible in its simplicity. A Mayor
responsible for educational achievement, a Chancellor accountable
to the Mayor for results and an educational panel, serving at
the pleasure of the Mayor, designed to give advice to the Chancellor.
Too few to blame now!
The Mayor’s surprising selection of seven people from a variety
of intelligent and experienced backgrounds to the new Educational
Policy Panel signaled that “same old” was not in the cards. The
shock of hearing that top educational management would move out
of 110 Livingston Street and his daring selection of Joel Klein
for the Chancellor’s position flew in the face of the educational
As I watched and listened in the Tweed Courthouse to the announcement
of Klein’s appointment, I was moved by the intensity of purpose
from both men and the clarity with which they spoke about their
mutual commitment. The absence of platitudes, pomposity and pandering
to the press or public spoke to me in a language I realized I
longed to hear. I was not disturbed by the fact the Joel Klein
is not a professional educator
Neither is he someone who dabbles in educational policy and like
so many before him, actually believes that he has all the answers.
My brief conversation with the new Chancellor the following morning
affirmed my initial feelings.
Coupled with a sense of urgency that this may be our last chance
to prove that NYC public schools can provide the quality of education
for which it was once renowned is the persistent focus of the
Mayor and his team. Despite the fact that principals and other
administrators who lead schools still do not have a contract,
that assistant principals make less than teachers they supervise,
and the recent teacher contract demands more of their time and
resources. Not withstanding the potentially disastrous state of
our fiscal situation in the city and its effect on schools, I
believe that the future holds promise.
For those of us who believe strongly in the value of public education,
the path is clear. There is unity, a common purpose, that energizes
the atmosphere. There are those who are still asking, “What is
the Mayor’s vision for our public schools? When will he articulate
it?” He certainly hasn’t shared it with me, but if I were to guess,
it would be very simply stated, “NYC will have the best public
education system in the nation.”#
Levy is the President of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators
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