A Referendum on Mayoral Control of the Schools

“There’s no question that mayoral control has done really positive great things.”—-Dan Squadron

“We need to get parents back in the process in a real way; we need to empower them. I feel the legislature was mislead by this Mayor…”—State Senator Marty Connor

As Mike Bloomberg moves towards creating a Charter Commission to extend his tenure in the Mayor’s Office to lives in being plus 21 years, by expanding the public‘s right to return him to office, he does nothing to allow voters to actually express their opinion on the real issues that impact their lives.

Next year, the legislature will vote on the crucial issue of whether to extend the experiment of absolute monarchial Mayoral control over the public school system. And yet, in all the City there is only one opportunity this year for voters to express a clear cut choice on this matter of monumental consequence. As such, it is likely that all eyes will be on the race for State Senate between incumbent Marty Connor and upstart Dan Squadron to gauge whether the much ballyhooed public anger over the manner in which school are run is really of much political consequence. 

Since, outside of a Park in one corner of the district, virtually nothing separates these candidates on this issues, voters who care about the schools are well advised to cast their votes on the basis of this issue alone. 

As one can see in this video excerpt of a recent debate between these candidates, the contrast could not be greater. Squadron thinks Mayoral control has made the school system accountable to the public. Connor thinks it has stripped away all accountability.

Most parents of public school children in the 25th Senatorial District seem to side with Connor, citing Kindergarteners in Tribeca being bussed to 1st Avenue and 23rd Street; admissions processes for Pre-K designed by Franz Kafka and M.C. Escher. A gifted admissions process designed by Lester Maddox and Orville Faubus. The elimination of politicians, but not politics, from the school variance process, with the Tweed Court house accommodating its favorite out of district kids in schools that can’t accommodate children from their own zones. Parents being fobbed off on “parent coordinators” whose job is to block access to anyone who might actually be able to accomplish anything or answer a question. And no accountability to anyone.

Meanwhile Squadron trumpets his service in the Bloomberg educational bureaucracy, and his endorsements from key Bloomberg educrats.

Connor acknowledges the new regime’s made some worthy changes “at the edges”, and Squadron acknowledges some changes need to be made, but their underlying attitude is unmistakable. During the debate, Connor was looking to throw out most of the bathwater, while Squadron called for a few  cosmetic changes akin to putting lipstick on a mule. Since the debate, Squadron's encountered enough angry parents to now emphasize and expand exponentially the changes he seeks, but the video captures what he really thinks, and the substance of his position remains unchanged.  

As far as the future, Squadron’s vision is also clear–more of the same, only somehow better. He accuses Connor of wanting to “go back to the bad old days of the Board of Education.” Actually, the video captures Connor saying “I don’t know anyone that wants to go back to the old system.” Since Squadron was sitting right next to Connor at the time, one must once again conclude that Squadron is lying, but that’s like complaining of dogs biting men.

Actually Connor is part of the Senate Democrats’ School Governance Task Force and is holding a hearing to get parental input on Mayoral Control so as to better formulate the school governance legislation to be introduced in next year’s session.

The hearing is Tuesday, August 12, 5:00-8 PM at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

What a novel idea–to listen to parents instead of paternalistically trying to force feed them what you think is good for them.