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DOE forecasts near anarchy in schools if Senate doesn't act

As early as this Monday, Mayor Bloomberg refused to countenance the possibility that mayoral control could expire June 30, spiraling the system back to a power-share with 32 community school boards and superintendents, plus a citywide Board of Education.

But with the state Senate still deadlocked, the mayor is agreeing to meet with the Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, and discuss contingency plans, Stringer said this morning.

Department of Education officials are also burrowing into education law — and what they’re describing is a school system that would become almost anarchical if the 2002 mayoral control law expires.

School officials explain a chain of events that would lead to the power vacuum in a memo that is circulating inside Tweed Courthouse and City Hall. The first problem is that if the system abruptly reverts to pre-2002 status, there would be no community school boards. The pre-2002 law prevents board elections from happening until May 2010, and no one has the authority to appoint temporary members:

“Therefore, community school boards will exist, but they will have no members — and will thus be incapable of taking any action,” the memo says.

No community school boards means no acting community superintendents, which means several crucial school matters would be left without anyone to OK them. According to the memo, the matters include filling teaching vacancies, firing school employees who commit crimes, and deciding whether to promote students to the next grade after summer school.

Classroom decisions could also be affected, the memo says:

“While principals have the authority to make curricular decisions, those decisions will require the superintendent’s approval, and without a superintendent, it is not clear how schools can make needed instructional decisions at all.”

It’s important to remember that these predictions are based not just on conversations with lawyers, but also probably political calculations. The department has been pushing strongly for mayoral control to be renewed, and so threatening doomsday if the Senate doesn’t act is in their interest.

Here’s the full document:

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