The Seeds of Mayor’s Control for New York Schools, 2002

On Friday, state lawmakers held a hearing to determine whether to extend the mayor’s control over city schools for another three years. City Limits looks back on our first coverage of the 20-year-old policy, which aimed to provide a “radical shock” to New York’s failing public schools at the time, following in the footsteps of cities like Chicago and Boston.

Office of the Mayor of New York/Edward Reed

Mayor Mike Bloomberg greeting students on the first day of school in 2010.

Flashback Friday is a series highlighting stories from the 45-year-old archives of City Limits.

On Friday, state lawmakers held a hearing to consider whether to expand the mayor’s control over city schools — established nearly two decades ago under then-mayor Michael Bloomberg — during another three years. The current policy, which was last extended in 2019 and will expire in June, shifted decision-making and responsibility for the city’s public school system from school boards and the school board to the mayor and city hall. town.

“New York’s failing public schools need a radical shake-up,” City Limits reported in January 2002, when vetting the mayor was one of many ideas explored by a legislative task force and law enforcement actors. education to overthrow the system. At the time, several other cities had already taken the leap:

In the 1990s, school dropout and illiteracy rates reached such embarrassing proportions in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and smaller towns that their mayors wrested control from their school boards in an effort to salvage reputations. of their cities and their own political future. The mayors won the support of business leaders and state legislatures, if not teachers and parents, promising that tighter control of the system would improve students’ educational outcomes.

It turns out that the biggest reward is financial. By positioning schools as economic engines, the town hall controls companies as stakeholders in schools. Better students mean better potential employees. And it keeps business – meaning jobs, consumers and votes – in town. Often, mayors will shoulder the burden of increased accountability for school performance—meaning no more blame games with the school board—because they will have greater access to public and private funding.

“From Lindsay to Giuliani, BOE’s independence hasn’t helped it on the resource front,” says Noreen Connell, executive director of the Education Priorities Group.

If New York’s new mayor wants to lead a campaign for higher scores in math and reading, he’ll have to meet an unspoken and perhaps unfair expectation to reform the entire system simultaneously, not sequentially. Can one person kickstart all of this and run a city at the same time?

Assemblyman Steven Sanders, whose committee will play a key role in deciding whether New York City can try the experiment, doesn’t think so. “A one-sided decision maker is inconsistent with the reality of multiple stakeholders who need to be involved in public education,” says Sanders.

—The Big Idea: Hizzoner Students, City Limits, January 2002

You can read that full story in our archive here, or in the PDF of the print magazine below.

As in years past, City Limits will be covering this year’s debate over the mayor’s scrutiny, and we want to hear what our readers think, especially those who work or have kids in the city school system. If you have an opinion, share it hereor email [email protected]

City Limits Magazine, January… by City limits (New York)

Comments are closed.