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UFT set to suggest yanking majority of board votes from mayor

The mayor would lose appointment power over a majority of seats on the city school board, which would be strengthened into a powerful check over decisions ranging from when students can be promoted to the next grade to when and how schools should be closed, under recommendations the city teachers union is set to finalize this week.

By giving the mayor a minority 5 of 13 appointments to the city school board, a group now seen as a rubber-stamp for the mayor’s agenda, the union’s recommendations carve away more authority from the mayor than the two other detailed recommendations released so far. The union also said today that it intends to endorse some of the proposals contained in other reports, including an idea proposed by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s governance commission, which would form an outside agency to analyze Department of Education data.

Sharing the recommendations with reporters this afternoon, union president Randi Weingarten said the UFT’s proposal preserves mayoral control, insisting repeatedly that the chancellor and the mayor would retain great power under the proposal. “This is not shared decision-making,” Weingarten said. “This is a check and balance to make sure that policies are done wisely and well and that the kids in this school system get what they need on a timely basis.”

Weingarten said that forcing the mayor to obtain two votes in addition to his five appointees would force more debate over school policies. The new board would also change its name, from the Panel for Education Policy — a title that is not actually written into the state law — to the Central Education Policy Council, or CEPC. The other eight appointees would include one by each borough president and three additional members: the city’s public advocate, the city comptroller, and the speaker of the City Council. The schools chancellor would serve as a non-voting member.

Weingarten will go to Albany tomorrow, presumably to share the proposal — and concerns over budget cuts — with state lawmakers. The proposal does not become official union policy until UFT members vote for it at two meetings this week, starting with an executive board meeting tonight. Weingarten said the proposal is a “balance” that would check against “recklessness.” She cited unpopular decisions by the mayor, including a re-routing of bus routes that left children stranded in the cold, and said that they would not happen under the union’s proposed reconfigured structure, because the school board would vote the proposal down.

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