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What's on the line for schools in today's City Council vote

The City Council’s government operations committee just voted unanimously to pass on a bill that would allow Mayor Bloomberg and other elected officials to run for a third term. Before the afternoon vote of all Council members that will determine whether term limits are actually extended, I thought it would be useful to review what’s at stake for the city schools.

Here’s a list of three things that will be affected by the vote:

  1. If term limits are extended, opening the door for a third Bloomberg term, expect a strong outcry from the wide group of people who have vehemently opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s changes to the city schools. Many members of this group had been looking happily forward to a new mayor and, they hoped, a new schools chancellor. But now they are looking at this afternoon’s vote with dread. An incomplete list of this group: those who oppose the Bloomberg administration’s reliance on standardized tests; advocates who have accused the administration of not attending to English language learners; special education experts who have said the overhaul of the schools has left out children with special needs; the arts education community, led by the Center for Arts Education, which has criticized accountability measures for pushing arts programming to the side; and teachers concerned about the administration’s efforts to evaluate them based on test scores and cut into tenure protections.
  2. On the other hand, if Mayor Bloomberg stays on, charter school leaders will cheer. Mayor Bloomberg has strongly supported efforts to expand charter schools, giving the schools space in public school buildings, even though that is not required by state law. A group of charter school leaders were among those mobilized by City Hall to testify in favor of extending term limits last week. The founder of Democracy Prep Charter School in Harlem, Seth Andrew, testified along with several students.
  3. The debate over whether to reauthorize mayoral control is going to intensify as its sunset date — July 2009 — approaches no matter what. But how legislators vote on mayoral control will be strongly influenced by which mayor they imagine they are handing power to. Many state legislators have raised concerns about the Bloomberg schools agenda, with one, Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx calling on Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to resign. If lawmakers imagine themselves writing a mayoral control law that will be handed to Bloomberg, they might be persuaded to be more aggressive in limiting mayoral powers.

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