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City Council’s governance group urges more Council authority

The City Council members charged with coming up with a school governance proposal say the council should have more oversight of the Department of Education. But they weren’t able to agree on a question that has so far divided critics of New York City’s brand of mayoral control, according to a summary of their forthcoming recommendations passed out at today’s Assembly hearing.

The recommendations generated by the council’s Working Group on School Governance reflect the City Council’s repeated sparring with DOE officials over access to information and the complaints about inclusion that council members have said their constituents frequently make. The group recommends that the legislature give the council more legislative and oversight powers, designate the city’s Independent Budget Office to analyze DOE data, and strengthen the role of community superintendents and parent governance structures.

Like many others weighing in on mayoral control, the group also urges more independence for the city school board, currently known as the Panel for Educational Policy.

But it doesn’t appear to have been able to come to a consensus on a central question: Whether the mayor should control the board. Instead of answering the question, the council puts forth three options for reforming the PEP: Reducing the number of members, but preserving a mayoral majority; increasing the number of members by adding two City Council appointees, meaning that the mayor would no longer control a majority of seats; or replacing the PEP with a new advisory board altogether.

Robert Jackson, the council’s education committee head who was one of the working group’s three chairs, has said he holds the extreme position that mayoral control should be abolished completely.

Also of note: The working group’s proposal is the first one I’ve seen that includes a specific expiration date for the new law: six years, which would put the city in the middle of a mayor’s term.

Below the jump, a summary of the report’s summary, from the council’s press release. Get the entire six-page summary here.

Create a System of Municipal Control – The Working Group strongly believes that the Department of Education (DOE) must function like every other City agency from a budget, legislative and oversight perspective. Create an Independent Data Analysis Body – The role of the Independent Budget Office (IBO) should be expanded to take on the vital task of providing independent analysis of DOE data and issue annual performance and budget reports. Greater Independence for the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) – The Working Group agrees that the Chancellor should not be a PEP member, but should report to the board. The Working Group will present a number of plans for achieving greater independence. Selection of the Chancellor – The Mayor should continue to select the Chancellor, and the City Council should be required to hold a public hearing and vote on any request to waive requirements for the position, which are outlined by City and State Law. Re-empower Community Superintendents – The role of community superintendent should be restored as the educational leader for schools in their community school district. Superintendents should be a parent’s first point of contact if they are unable to solve a grievance on the school level. Strengthen Community Level Parent Engagement Structures – Rather than having several disconnected entities to serve as vehicles for parent input at the district level, some of the parent engagement structures and functions should be incorporated into a single entity. Additionally, The Borough Presidents and City Council should be granted an appointee to District Leadership Teams. Third, School Leadership Teams should be empowered to develop their school’s Comprehensive Educational Plan, after holding public meetings to allow for parent comment and review as well as play a role in evaluating the principal. Six Year Sunset Provision – The State Legislature should extend mayoral control with the amendments listed above and have the legislation sunset in 6 years.