“Mayoral Control: An Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Come, Never Did, and Never Will”
By Eric Severson, UFT Solidarity Council Member and Electoral Candidate
Three term mayor Michael Bloomberg was trying to buy his way to the presidency by inundating us with misleading ads in an attempt to rewrite history. Those of us who worked in New York City schools for his three terms know that he was never a friend to working teachers. We remember the DOE lawyers hired to back up abusive administrators no matter how much they violated our contract, harassed us and by extension our students, the constant threat of school closings, and ATR status to keep us under their thumb. We remember the disrespectful comments from Chancellor Cathy Black about “birth control” being the solution to school overcrowding and Bloomberg stating that his ideal would be to double class size and fire half the teachers.
This is a serious problem with Bloomberg himself and his conduct as mayor which he openly lied about on the debate stage. It is also a clear example of what mayoral control makes possible. If a mayor and his appointees can unileterally make and implement policy and ignore the input of local districts, parents, union members, and students themselves, needed improvement don’t happen and top-down control remains in place. The De Blasio administration gave educators some hope of greater responsiveness to the needs of the classroom teacher, their students and families. The same lawyers and bureaucrats appointed by Bloomberg remain in control, though, and little has fundamentally changed in the way th DOE is run.
This misguided notion of allowing mayors free rein over school policy is now crossing the Hudson: Jersey City mayor Stephen Fulop, who spoke favorably of former Mayor Bloomberg after a national mayor’s conference, is now attempting to gain mayoral control of the Jersey City school board, making members of the board mayoral appointees. He claims that this is only to stop corruption and anti-Semitic bigotry from board members, and that mayoral control will be relinquished once the board cleans up its act. We’ve all heard that before from politicians, ‘just give me more power for now and I’ll let go of it later.’ There’s plenty to criticize about the recent conduct of the JC school board, but mayoral control is not the solution, it’s been a serious problem for New York and will be anywhere else that it’s tried.