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To cut costs, report suggests mayoral control expand upstate

Another recommendation from the Suozzi report I wrote about earlier today, the one recommending ways for state schools to cut costs, is that the mayors of the Big Four cities — Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Yonkers — be granted control of their public school systems, like Mayor Bloomberg was in 2002. How could mayoral control cut school costs?

The commission makes two arguments. One is that handing control to the mayor would allow for more efficient spending. The schools could be linked with other services under the mayor’s purview, like parks, recreation, and social programs. The second argument is more long-term:

Most importantly, if mayoral control is successful in improving school performance, there may be a positive effect on economic development, retention of middle class families, and protection or expansion of the property tax base.

The arguments are interesting — especially because they provide two good yardsticks to measure New York City’s mayoral control experiment. First, there’s the idea that the mayor, given control, will creatively find ways to link schools to other city agencies. Teachers union president Randi Weingarten has argued that school districts should do this more often, using mayoral control to create what she calls “community schools.” But did inter-agency cooperation happen in New York? I can’t think of any examples, but maybe readers can.

Then, there’s the question of whether mayoral control helped retain middle class families in New York City. This question would probably make a terrific PhD dissertation, or three. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to tackle it here, too. I have some ideas about data points that give a sense of whether middle-class families were moved to keep their kids in the public schools after mayoral control. And I know that lawmakers and public school parents have strong thoughts, too. I’ll share both in coming posts. In the meantime, readers, other ideas about how to answer this question?

Finally, for the record, this is not the first time a mayoral control exportation has been floated.