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Tonight: Senate Democrats hold mayoral control hearing in Brooklyn

With the 2002 law granting control of the city’s schools to the mayor set to expire in less than a year, discussion about school governance in New York City is getting serious — and parents and educators are invited to share their thoughts tonight at a forum in Brooklyn.

Photo by p_a_h

Photo by p_a_h

For the last year, parents, educators, and community activists have weighed in on what the State Assembly should do when the law sunsets in July 2009. Some, including many in the current education administration, believe the law should be renewed as it is currently written. Others are advocating for a complete return to community control of schools, saying that mayoral control has shut out parent and community voices in school leadership. And still others have developed proposals for revisions to the law that would institute checks and balances on a mayor-controlled school system.

But until recently, it wasn’t clear how these wide-ranging proposals might gain traction. Now, members of the State Assembly have turned their attention to the mayoral control question as they gear up to tackle it in the upcoming term. Tonight, the Senate Democratic School Governance Task Force is holding its second of five hearings on mayoral control, at Brooklyn Borough Hall from 5 to 8 p.m. Hosted by Martin Connor, a state senator from District 25, which covers Lower Manhattan and much of the waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn from Greenpoint south to Carroll Gardens, the hearing is among the first organized by members of the governing body that is actually tasked with addressing the law. Democrats are considered likely to take control of the State Senate this fall; in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 52 percent of likely voters said they hoped Democrats would win control, compared to just 32 percent who said they wanted Republicans to retain control.

In contrast with some of the organizations that held forums this spring, the Senate Democratic School Governance Task Force is looking not only for feedback about how mayoral control has worked in New York for the last six years, but also for specific suggestions about how the structure of school governance might be revised, a member of the NYC Education News Yahoo group wrote yesterday. ” Whatever other issues you may want to address in your testimony, be sure to be very specific in answering whether you think mayoral control should continue as is in 2009, sunset with return to community school boards, or be replaced with a whole different structure,” the commenter wrote.

If you can’t make it tonight, Sen. Liz Kreuger will host a similar hearing on Sept. 18 at the CUNY Graduate Center in her Manhattan district. And stayed tuned to GothamSchools for in-depth reporting about the myriad proposals the State Assembly is sure to hear in the coming months.