Two members of the Campaign for Better Schools at today's press conference. Photo courtesy of the Campaign for Better Schools
Members of the Campaign for Better Schools at today's press conference. Photo courtesy of the Campaign for Better Schools.

One final installment in today’s all-mayoral-control-all-the-time report: Before the Assembly hearing began this morning, a coalition of community groups that promised to evaluate mayoral control by its results issued its its school governance recommendations.

Citing “reckless budget cuts” and a continued gap between black and white students in obtaining Regents diplomas, The Campaign for Better Schools recommended reconfiguring the city school board so that the mayor no longer appoints a majority of members.

The campaign’s platform, posted in full after the jump, addresses several of the chief critiques leveled against the Department of Education in recent years. One is that communities don’t have adequate input in making decisions about opening, closing and locating schools; the campaign recommends requiring community consultation. And the platform responds to a recent decision by the state education commissioner that principals have the right to determine school budgets by requiring that budgets be developed in consultation with parent leaders.

The coalition’s member organizations include Advocates for Children and the Alliance for Quality Education, among others. It is funded by a grant from the Donor’s Education Collaborative, a consortium that supports projects to enhance public engagement in education.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE ON GOVERNANCE OF THE NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Campaign for Better Schools is a diverse coalition of more than two dozen parent, youth, community based and education advocacy organizations from all five boroughs of New York City.  The Campaign for Better Schools supports the concept of Mayoral Control, but disagrees with the way it has been implemented.  At the same time, the reforms and policies that have been put in place as a result of mayoral control have not led to the turn-around of schools in some of New York City’s highest-need communities.  For instance, the achievement gap between African American and Latino students and white students in obtaining Regents diplomas has not budged, and graduation rates for immigrant students learning English has actually dipped in the last four years.  In addition, mayoral control has resulted in reckless budget cuts, and reforms have led to parents, students and communities being shut out of important decisions that affect the quality of education students receive.

The reforms outlined in this proposal will make mayoral control of schools workable by strengthening the decision making process by which education policies and reforms are developed, and by restoring the trust that families and communities put in the school system.  These recommendations were developed through a rigorous year long process that involved numerous discussions with national and local education experts, parent, student and community organizations in neighborhoods throughout New York City.  It is a community-driven proposal, developed by parents, youth and community groups.

CHECKS & BALANCES

Panel for Education Policy (PEP)

The PEP should have a narrow majority of members appointed by the City Council or other elected officials, and a minority of members appointed by the mayor.

PEP members should serve for set terms of a relatively short duration (3 years or less) and have full voting rights.
The PEP should select a Chair who sets meeting agendas

Chancellor

The mayor should appoint the Schools Chancellor

The Chancellor should not be a voting member of the PEP, but may serve as an ex-officio member.

Criteria and Selection of Board Members

The PEP should be diverse geographically (representatives from all boroughs).

The members of the PEP should reflect the school system’s diversity.

The PEP must include multiple community representatives.  Community representatives should be defined as parents, students and representatives of community based organizations.

Powers of the PEP

The Chancellor should have the power to propose the DOE operating budget and the five-year capital plan.  The PEP shall have approval power over the annual DOE operating budget and five-year capital plan.

The Chancellor should propose changes in education policies. The PEP shall have the power to approve major Chancellor-proposed education policy decisions.

The PEP should approve large DOE procurement contracts.

PEP Operations

The PEP should operate with an open public process.  As such all PEP meetings should be held publicly, on a regular monthly basis.  All decisions should be made publicly, by roll call vote.  Notices and agendas of PEP meetings should be widely disseminated publicly, in multiple languages, at least two weeks in advance.  PEP meetings should be held in venues large enough to accommodate large public attendance and appropriate interpretation services shall be provided at all meetings.  The PEP should solicit public comment on all voting issues.

TRANSPARENCY

The Independent Budget Office should be given legal authority to report on all aspects of the City school district including DOE’s finances, school performance, student achievement, student safety and shared decision making at the school level.

Sufficient funding should be provided to the IBO to support their new monitoring and reporting functions.

The IBO should:

  • Be guaranteed full and timely access to all NYC DOE data;
  • Annually compile, produce, and widely disseminate school system student demographics and achievement outcomes, as well as annual analyses of school system resource allocation and fiscal expenditure;
  • Use methodologies, benchmarks and indicators recommended by national agencies and expert researchers to produce the annual set of required data reports, and make their methodologies, benchmarks and indicators public;
  • Carry out annual analyses of critical school system education policy issues and issue their findings in widely disseminated public reports.

The law should be clarified to make the DOE’s finances completely open and available to the City Comptroller for financial oversight and auditing purposes.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

School Level

The role of parents and high school students, on the school leadership teams should be strengthened. Student representatives should be selected through vote of student body.

Principals should be required to develop school based budgets in consultation with School Leadership Teams and ensure that budgets are aligned with schools’ Comprehensive Education Plans (CEP).

Principals should be required to hold public meetings to report on school finances and student performance, and to discuss plans for meeting CEP benchmarks and budget targets.

Parents and high school students who are involved in shared decision making should receive adequate training and support to responsibly carry out their duties and obligations.

District Level

Superintendent

District superintendents should be responsible for supervising principals and providing administrative oversight of schools in their district.   They should have access to all schools in their district as well as access to all school records to carry out their evaluations effectively.

Superintendents should be empowered to address issues regarding school choice, discipline (suspensions, expulsions, etc), language access (parents, ELL students), special needs, and shared decision-making.

Superintendents should hold public meetings to report on district performance and discuss plans for improvement of district schools.

The Chancellor should appoint district superintendents in consultation with the CDEC, Presidents’ Council and District Leadership Team.

District superintendents should be supported by sufficient staff to carry out their duties.

School Closings & New School Siting:

A process should be established that ensures community input before schools are closed, new schools are created, and new schools are placed inside existing schools.