The coalition protest yesterday at City Hall. (Courtesy Campaign for Better Schools)
The coalition protest yesterday at City Hall. (Courtesy Campaign for Better Schools)

The newest addition to the debate over how much power the mayor should have over the public schools, a coalition of 25 community groups called the Campaign for Better Schools, unveiled its position yesterday [link corrected] — that the public should have a say in policies that rule the public schools.

The pro-checks and balances stance is not a surprise. The groups behind this coalition — including the parent-led group called the Coalition for Educational Justice, the New York Immigration Coalition, the Hispanic Federation, and the NAACP — have campaigned against the mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein since they took office, often portraying them as orchestrating power plays against the public will.

What is new is the argument the group is deploying to make its case. Rather than portray the mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein as dictators (remember the posters during the budget cut wars that portrayed Klein as a greedy “Simpsons” villain and Bloomberg as Pinocchio?), they are zeroing in on the pair’s results — and calling them failures.

Here’s a description of what the groups did at yesterday’s launch event, from their press release:

… one demonstration started with one hundred people who represented one hundred ninth graders. Out of that one hundred, thirty-eight moved out to symbolize the 38% of white ninth graders who currently do not graduate with Regents diplomas. More people moved into the non-Regents diploma group to symbolize the 68% of African American students and 70% of Hispanic students who currently do not graduate with Regents diplomas. By the end of the demonstration, all but five people were standing in the non-Regents diploma group, symbolizing the 95% of students with disabilities who currently do not graduate with Regents diplomas.

“The significance of this is astounding considering that beginning this school year, entering 9th graders must get a Regents diploma in order to graduate from high school,” said Norm Fruchter, a researcher from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. “There is a crisis looming.”

One more noteworthy thing: In a poster that I’m pasting below, the group suggests a few different options for what to do when the state law that granted the mayor control of the schools in the first place expires (the date to watch is June 30, 2009). All of them are familiar to me (change it, keep it as-is, let it disappear outright) except for one: the option to pass a one-year extender to the law to give lawmakers a chance to make a decision again — once they know who the new mayor will be.