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Dukes asks Assembly to bite the mayor like that groundhog did

By now you know a bunch of the highlights from the big mayoral control hearing Friday. Diane Ravitch argued for taking power away from the mayor, the administration argued for keeping it, and some students summed the whole thing up pretty nicely.

But there were other highlights, too, that I didn’t go over Friday. Here’s a rundown:

  • New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes charged the Bloomberg administration with over-stating its civil rights accomplishments. “Despite repeated claims, the achievement gap has not diminished in any grades or subjects since this administration came to office,” she said.
  • Dukes also advised Assembly members to carve into the mayor’s control of the schools by adding checks and balances to the power of the mayor and chancellor. “You got to put the teeth in now, and when they don’t do it, just like that groundhog did the other day, you’re going to have to bite,” she said. “We need to make sure that no man, not any man in this city or woman can just have all the power about our children.”
  • Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, whose sister is the famous TV personality Rosie O’Donnell, criticized the Bloomberg administration for having too few educators control education policy. He described a meeting with a senior education policy aide to the mayor. When O’Donnell asked about her background, the adviser said she went to school, became a lawyer, and has siblings who are educators.
  • “My sister used to have a very famous talk show, but that doesn’t make me qualified to be an executive at NBC,” O’Donnell said.
  • Robert Jackson, a City Council member from Manhattan and the chairman of the council’s education committee, laid out what he called limits on the council’s oversight powers. “They are tardy and late in responding to our requests on a continuous basis,” Jackson said. A council working group on mayoral control on Friday recommended strengthening the council’s powers over the schools.
  • In the council’s vision, which Jackson called “municipal control” rather than mayoral control, the council would have a say over things like where schools are sited, the capital plan, transportation, and contracts. The council now can vote against the mayor’s budget, but it has no say on policy matters. (Remember that effort to overturn the mayor’s alive-and-kicking cell phone ban? And the Dignity in All Schools Act?)
  • Under direct questioning by Assemblyman Alan Maisel of Brooklyn, Chancellor Joel Klein said he would not support giving parents the power to select principals, or even to select a set of candidates from which the central Department of Education could choose.
  • But Klein said he would consider re-thinking the role of the superintendent so that the officials spent more time in their school district. Right now, superintendents often float outside their district to oversee schools spread around the city.

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