testimony time

Fariña holds firm on mayoral control as Republicans take shots at de Blasio

Chancellor Carmen Fariña continued to make the case for a long-term extension of mayoral control on Wednesday, as New York lawmakers fired back sharp questions about the city’s school-turnaround program and the need for a lengthy extension.

Testifying before state lawmakers, Fariña said that her long career in education has taught her that bureaucracies “do harm education,” presumably referring to the local school boards that held more power before New York City’s mayor was given control of the school system in 2002. To ensure stability and continue the city’s record of success, she said, lawmakers should extend the current system for at least seven years.

“I would never have taken this job if I was not going to have a mayor who was going to have my back,” Fariña said.

The legislature granted de Blasio only a one-year extension of mayoral control last year, in a major blow to the mayor who had asked for permanent control of the school system. Republican legislators led that charge against de Blasio, and some of Fariña’s sharpest questions at Wednesday’s hearing came from the influential Republican Senator Carl Marcellino.

Marcellino, who chairs the Senate’s education committee, asked Fariña about the status of the city’s “Renewal” program, a turnaround effort designed to flood struggling schools with resources. He also asked whether she plans to close schools, a strategy favored by de Blasio’s predecessor Michael Bloomberg.

Fariña responded that she does plan to do so, repeating her stance that shuttering schools should remain an option when they do not improve after being given time and resources. Just last month, the city announced plans to close three struggling schools, citing their poor performance and low enrollment.

Marcellino also asked Fariña to justify a seven-year extension. When she began to talk about de Blasio’s track record, the senator interrupted to point out that de Blasio might not be in office for the next seven years.

Farina didn’t miss a beat, responding that the debate about the length of mayoral control has become a political game.

“That’s politics with a capital P,” Fariña said. “I’m just saying that from the point of view of the chancellor … I can’t image anyone running for mayor at any time who’s not going to want mayoral control.”

De Blasio told lawmakers on Tuesday that mayoral control is the only way to efficiently run a school system with 1.1 million students. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who opposed the mayor’s bid for permanent mayoral control last year, said he plans to assess de Blasio’s long-term education vision and the progress of the city’s struggling schools before signing off on a longer extension.

Governor Andrew Cuomo supports a three-year extension.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.