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Opponents upset as Silver set to release revised control plan

The head of the Assembly’s education committee, Catherine Nolan of Queens, is expected to release a revised proposal for the mayoral control law this evening, in the Assembly Democrats’ second closed-door conference  on the law. Opponents of mayoral control, anticipating that the proposal will not include as many checks to the mayor’s power as they had hoped, are scrambling to encourage supporters to call their elected officials and demand more changes.

The goal is to persuade Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver not to finalize a plan the opponents think is too weak, said April Humphrey, an organizer with the Campaign for Better Schools, which is pushing for checks to the mayor’s power over the schools. A main concern is that the proposal will not create fixed terms for members of the citywide school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy.

Humphrey suggested that her group has abandoned efforts to revise the board to give the mayor a minority of appointments. “I don’t know if there’s a lot that we can do on that,” she said.

Humphrey said opponents of mayoral control feel a particular sense of urgency because they don’t expect the Senate, which has flipped to Republican control, to produce a palatable proposal. “Who knows what’s going to happen with the Senate, but if the Senate ends up in Republican hands, they’re not going to do any better for us than the Assembly will,” Humphrey said.

“Emergency!! Call you [sic] assembly member NOW,” was the subject line of an e-mail blast the Campaign sent out this afternoon.

A main point of contention is whether Nolan’s proposal will require members of the citywide school board to serve for fixed terms. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have vigorously argued against fixed terms, saying that they would betray the purpose of mayoral control. Officials lobbying on the mayor’s behalf are also pointing out that members who served on the old Board of Education before 2002 did not have fixed terms.

The proposal follows one that Silver made at the end of last month, to Mayor Bloomberg’s approval but some members derision.

UPDATE: Billy Easton, a lead organizer of the Campaign for Better Schools, just called to clarify some of Humphrey’s remarks. He said that the campaign has not given up on pushing for the mayor to lose his majority of appointments to the school board. “We’re focused on the fixed terms right now because at a base line if you don’t have fixed terms, then the PEP is a rubber stamp, and if the legislature adopts no fixed terms, they’re basically rubber stamping the rubber stamp,” Easton said.

He also addressed the idea that the Assembly is the campaign’s best hope for strong checks to the mayor’s power. “As a clarification, it’s impossible to predict what’s going to go on in the Senate. However, we do know that there is a strong support within the Assembly majority for substantial reform to mayoral control, so we are focusing a lot of our energy on what will be the Assembly’s final proposal right now as they are having their discussion,” he said.

Here’s a full copy of the Campaign for Better Schools e-mail blast:

Friends of the Campaign for Better Schools, We have just heard that the NYS assembly is conferencing on mayoral control this afternoon and that they will be making a final decision on it at this meeting. As far as we know, fixed terms for PEP members is not part of what will be proposed. Please call YOUR assembly member NOW and urge the Assemblymember to speak up about the following: 1) We need FIXED TERMS for the members on the Panel for Educational policy so they can’t be removed when the mayor wants, 2) We need community input and a public hearing when there are school closings, restructurings and resitings, including a vote by the CEC, 3) We need a parent and student training center independent of the DOE that can train them about DOE structure, their rights, do outreach and give them the skills necessary to be active decision-makers and involved in DOE structures, including SLT’s, CEC’s, PTA’s, etc. To find who your Assemblymember is go here: http://www.lwvnyc.org/TRY_find.html Enter your address to search for your state Assembly representative. Then follow the link to their website: please call both their Albany and their local district office. You MUST do this before 4 today!!!!! This is extremely urgent. With the Senate in disarray, we will not get anything better than what the Assembly makes a final decision on. Also, this is the most important thing you can be doing for your school, your child and your community right now. Please call me with any questions. Thanks, Julian Vinocur Organizer, Campaign for Better Schools