Recent actions leave some questioning mayoral control of schools

Stephon Johnson | 1/14/2021, midnight
With the muddled roll out, stop and start nature of the 2020-21 school year, some are beginning to question whether ...
classroom/education Pexels/Pixabay

With the muddled roll out, stop and start nature of the 2020-21 school year, some are beginning to question whether New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should have control of the city’s schools.

Some people want to kill off mayoral control completely regardless of the person in office. It’s a long road for the mayor and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. A road that began in March and continued into the new year.

Last September, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators officials wrote a letter of no confidence to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking that he snatch control of the city’s public schools from de Blasio. The union cited their lack of trust in him to provide them with the appropriate amount of staffers for schools.

Much of that hasn’t changed...on both sides.

The United Federation of Teachers remain on the side of keeping mayoral control of schools, but making tweaks to the job and its process to better help operations.

“Our position––regardless of which mayor is in office––is that mayoral control needs reform,” said UFT Spokesperson Alison Gendar to the AmNews. “We are not saying return to the old system of school boards, but adjust the system to provide greater input from parents and educators. We have held this position since 2013…I can send you our position.”

New York City Council Member and former teacher Mark Treyger told the AmNews that he’s long called for removing control of schools from the mayor. He talked about expressing his views in front of state legislators last year articulating his point.

“I was the only member of the city council to testify last year on mayoral control until they voted to reauthorize it until June 2022,” said Treyger to the AmNews. “Ask anyone who has been impacted by his school decisions whether they have been consistent or had any positive effect on families.”

Treyger isn’t the only one questioning the mayor’s decision-making with schools.

In a recent guest appearance on WBAI’s “Talking out of School” podcast, CSA President Mark Cannizzaro told education activist and advocate Leonie Haimson that de Blasio over-promised and under delivered on his promise of reopening schools full-time. Cannizzaro stated to Haimson that 60% of department of education buildings have seen enrollment losses.

Cannizzaro told Haimson “that before the announcement was made and the declaration that most schools would be able to do this they would have surveyed the schools and asked if they’d be able to do this or not.”

“They wanted hybrid because he wanted to go on television to say that he had reopened the largest school system in the city,” said Treyger. “And that fell apart because in high schools, you’re required to have a license to teach a specific course. You can’t put [in] a gym teacher to cover science. One school had teachers in class watching kids while they worked with teachers via Zoom.”

When asked about the job it’s done so far this year, a spokesperson for the DOE said they would need more time to respond. As of press time, they hadn’t responded.

“I reiterate my call for checks and balances,” said Treyger. “They mayor should still maintain the ability to nominate a chancellor, but the city council should appoint them. If such an appointment was available in the case with Cathie Black, she wouldn’t have become chancellor.”