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The True Nature of Mayoral Control Strikes Hard for 19 School Communities

Sometimes people lose track of what mayoral control means, particularly the pure form that we have in New York City. In New York City, it means that the mayor controls the schools and can do whatever he wants, for he appoints the majority of the the local school board (the Panel for Educational Policy) and can remove his appointees at anytime for any reason whatsoever.

The vote by the PEP, the “fake school board,” as some call it, was the best animation of mayoral control that we’ve seen in a long time.

For those of you who live in another city, and are thinking, well, that’s New York, so who cares–you should know that more and more mayors, mayoral candidates, and civic leaders are pushing for this brand of school governance. What is more, Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg have put a great amount of effort into marketing and promoting it across the world (yes world, no exaggeration).

Was this morning’s vote approving the closure of 19 schools a surprise? No, not really. I do think that many people following this issue began to think that the sizable number of people defending these schools, including teachers, administrators, parents, and students, might persuade the PEP to act in a way that was at odds with its governance structure. In other words: vote against the wishes of the mayor and chancellor. No dice.

So, beyond the drama and there was plenty of it, including lots of broken hearts, what’s new or interesting to consider?

1. The scale and intensity of the people protesting the closures. In any other city, with a real school board, you can be pretty sure this would have led to a different decision. This bodes well for the role of an engaged public in public education going forward. Click here to read a rather good Daily News article on this subject.

2. The coverage of the debate by new media, in particular by was quite remarkable. Take a look at their play-by-play coverage of yesterday’s PEP meeting, lasting until the wee hours of the morning. Additionally, the coverage by Norm Scott was notable, in particular his video coverage of the hearings and rallies.

3. After all the Sturm and Drang, the statement by the schools chancellor speaking about the NYCDOE’s “remarkable success” was just the wrong note to hit and speaks volumes on a symbolic level:

“The vote today will pave the way for us to build on the remarkable
progress we’ve made and continue to best prepare students for the next
phase of their lives.”

4. What’s up next for the remaining comprehensive high schools that do not perform on the same level as Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Murrow, Midwood, etc?  Will the stated preference for small high schools lead to further closings and conversions?

5. Will this be the door opener for significant growth in charter high schools, provided that the charter cap is eventually increased?

6. As a Rockaway native, I wonder what will happen now, with the closure of the two comprehensive high schools on the Peninsula. Will enough seats be created for local kids to go to a local high school, or will kids, in some cases poor kids who have to work, now have to travel two to three hours each day for school, and thus be forced to make a choice between school and work?

7. What will happen to all the teachers from these 19 schools? Will they find jobs or flood the ATR pool?

8. And finally, because this is an arts education blog after all, will the conversion of these buildings continue to hamper efforts to
provide arts education through the loss of dedicated and appropriate
arts education space, as well as the loss of access to certified arts


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