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Public advocate candidates sound off on mayoral control

Earlier this week, the New York Civil Liberties Union held a debate among the candidates for public advocate, moderated by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News. Gonzalez quizzed the five candidates about mayoral control — the following are their responses (video courtesy of the NYCLU). Next Tuesday the organization is co-hosting a debate for the mayoral candidates.

Bill de Blasio said the issue is “very personal” for him, citing his children, who attend public schools, and his service on a school board. “I think we need profound reform of mayoral control,” he said, but did not go into specifics.

“I’m offended at any effort to reduce the democratic participation of parents in our school system. I believe there’s a way to do mayoral control right. I think there are virtues in the system if there is transparency, if there are clear checks and balances, if there is a forum for actual debate, if there is a role for communities and for local residents and for parents.”

Eric Gioia said the school governance system under Bloomberg and Klein has been holding kids accountable, but not adults. He said school should end at 5 p.m., not 3 p.m., and that children should begin school at the age of three, not five.

“I believe that we should have mayoral control, but I think for all that stuff you talked about, the smoke and mirrors and all that, that shouldn’t be a question because we should have independent outside audits of the school system. Transparency and accountability doesn’t mean testing the kids every two weeks — it means that the bureaucracy has to have transparency and accountability. And that is what we’re missing right now.”

Mark Green accused Bloomberg and Klein of “a father knows best, top-down approach,” to educational policy. “They’re ruining the value of the managerial accountability — that you want someone responsible sitting guard on one of the two great responsibilities of municipal government: law enforcement and education.”

“The best way to balance mayoral control, avoid mayoral dictatorship, and have someone who understands education, is to elect Billy Thompson the mayor of New York City.”

Norman Siegel called Klein “irresponsible and reckless,” for extending a contract to 2015, which would be well past the end of Bloomberg’s potential third term. “If mayoral control is defined by what Bloomberg and Klein have done since 2002, then I am opposed to mayoral control,” he said.

“With regard to test scores, it’s possible there’s a fraud going on here by Klein and the people at the DOE. I’m being told — and we’re doing research right now — is that the exams, in fact, instead of having 44 to pass, it’s been lowered to 28.”

Alex Zablocki, the lone Republican, said he did support mayoral control of schools. “I don’t believe it’s perfect, but as someone who’s 26 years old and left the public school system right before they turned over control to the mayor, I do remember a system, back then, that was filled with bureaucrats…and I believe that there was a lot of waste. With that said, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of waste now.”

“We do need more parental control and more voice…Educators need more of a voice than ever. What’s happening right now in the department of education is people that run corporations trying to run a school like a corporation.”

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