Good morning. It’s Tuesday. Today we’ll look at whether Mayor Eric Adams should retain control of the New York public school system.
Mayor Eric Adams’ review of the New York City school system will be renewed in June. The state Legislature, which will decide whether or not to extend mayoral primacy to the nation’s largest public school system, appears open to revisiting a model of school governance that was established in New York 20 years ago and has since become entrenched. Whether mayoral control improved the system has been the subject of considerable debate ever since.
I asked Troy Closson, who covers training for Metro’s office, about the future of the mayor’s audit.
Mayoral control of schools poses a political risk for Adams, as it did for his predecessors: He can use his role to put education high on the city’s agenda, but he probably can’t improve test scores, can he?
No, but let’s take a broader view.
One reason this time is different is that Adams is the third mayor to hold mayoral control.
There are parents and educators who feel it is time to take stock. They are well aware that some cities have moved away from the control of mayors. Chicago is in the process of doing so right now.
That has some families in New York saying what they might not have said a few years ago — that maybe it’s possible to have a different model here.
Mayor Adams is pushing hard to maintain control. He’s also talked about how it’s the first time a black mayor and a black chancellor have been in charge, and that he thinks it’s important to keep that in mind.
Does criticism of the Adams administration influence what parents are saying?
From the parents’ side, sure.
Decision makers in Albany will likely look at the entire 20 years that New York has had this system and evaluate where it has worked and what needs to be improved.
How close are Adams and schools chancellor David Banks?
The mayor and chancellor are long-time family friends, so in taking on the role, Banks was in a different position than some other recent chancellors.
Looking back on Adams’ first two years in office, the mayor said dyslexia should be a priority, along with improving reading for black and Latino children, and that’s what the chancellor has focused on.
This shows the power the mayor has to have a full say in choosing the chancellor.
Banks was a New York City educator prior to mayoral control, and has argued that after seeing problems with the previous system, mayoral control is the best model.
He also tried to frame current frustrations with the scrutiny of mayors that they have dealings with other administrations. School closings when Michael Bloomberg was mayor came up in the conversation with frustrated parents and teachers, but there’s also deep anger over Adams’ cuts to education.
Where does mayoral control lie with the state legislature?
There haven’t been many lawmakers who seem interested in taking away control from mayors and moving to a completely different system, but many lawmakers seem willing to discuss whether tweaks are needed.
Back in 2022, when Adams got the now-expiring two-year extension on mayoral control, he tied it to a new class size law. The city is somewhat resistant to the idea of mandatory abatements, to the dismay of some legislators, I think.
It’s also worth noting that when Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio were in City Hall, the teachers union never fully entered the mayoral control debate. Michael Mulgrew, the head of the union, was in Albany last week and told lawmakers he was not against mayoral control. However, he pointed to places like Boston and Cleveland where there are checks and balances. Mulgrew basically said that’s where he wants to go here.
What does the union say?
Mulgrew argues that the mayor should not choose the majority of the Education Policy Committee, which votes on issues such as school funding and mergers.
He told lawmakers that curbing the mayor’s power would not have stopped initiatives like Catholic pre-kindergarten or the chancellor’s plan to overhaul the way reading is taught — but it could have prevented the mayor from making unilateral cuts to education, as Adams did . The participation of the union will be interesting. Mulgrew’s proposal would be a huge loss for Adams.
How angry are the parents?
It is always difficult to measure the mood of the whole system.
But a large group of parents felt that what most defined Adams’ first year in office was the return to education and the cuts. This has been brought up again and again in recent public hearings, where hundreds of parents have spoken out against the mayoral control.
Also, this is a difficult time for the system. Enrollment has declined due to the pandemic, and the system is facing difficult questions about budgets and space in school buildings. So as families look ahead, they want to have a say in what happens.
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Valid until Friday (Lunar New Year’s Eve).
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I often wake up early for a 6:30am gym class. I turn on the light in my kitchen, where the window faces the kitchen windows in the building next door.
As I pour the coffee into my thermos, I see the man who lives directly across from me in his kitchen. It also makes coffee.
We turn off our lights, walk out the door, down the elevator, and out into the street all at the same time. She has two terriers. We both say “hello”.
“Seems like you’re back in town these days,” he said one morning last fall.
Yes, I answered. We had spent most of the summer on Long Island, but returned for the winter.
I mentioned that she had new neighbors downstairs with two small children. (I can see in this kitchen too.)
Yes, he said, they are very nice. The building had a lot of turnover with new families, he added.
And ours, I said.
We reached the corner, wished each other a good day and I turned right towards the gym.
Fifteen years we’ve lived across the street from each other, and we still haven’t exchanged names.
— Erica True
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