Op-ED – Mayoral Control of New York City Schools

Op-Ed by Roy Hastick
 
On June 30th, the law giving mayoral control over our city’s public schools will expire. Between now and then the state legislature in Albany can vote to renew the law, change it, or simply let it expire. It is of vital importance that as parents, business leaders and concerned members of the Caribbean community we become engaged in this issue and contact our state representatives to urge them to vote for renewal of the law.
 
As president, CEO and founder of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry I see daily the importance of graduating students who can read and write on or above grade level, and can compete against rising global standards.
 
I know the difference mayoral control has made. The issue isn’t black or white. It’s green. It’s about our children’s ability to get an economic foothold in this country, and about maintaining the economic viability of New York’s labor force, and of the city itself. In order for New York to remain economically competitive we New Yorkers depend on our schools to produce an educated workforce second to none.
 
Between 2002 and now I have seen the difference made by mayoral control. Before the law granting mayoral control over our schools was enacted in 2002 a majority of New York City public schools were failing. Reading and math levels were far below the rates of children in other parts of New York State and around the country. Schools were unsafe and classroom overcrowding was rampant. Uncertified teachers teaching outside their subject areas was the norm and graduation rates—the real indicator of whether our children will be able to go on to college or to get jobs—were abysmal. Only 38% of New York City students graduated within 4 years in 2002, compared to 61% in New York State and 75% nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
 
Since mayoral control things have improved dramatically. Now 100% of New York’s teachers are certified. School hallways are safer and overcrowding is down. Most importantly, graduation rates are up 22% and reading and math rates are rising. In fact, fourth grade math Regents Exam passing rates have increased 53%. To make schools and principals more accountable for student achievement, failing schools have been closed and failing principals have been removed. Teachers’ salaries have increased some 43% making it easier to recruit and retain good teachers.
 
The reason these successes have been possible is because mayoral control has centralized control of school policy, curriculum, and budget. Prior to mayoral control 32 individual school boards existed, each doing their own thing. Each district had its own academic standards and curriculum, making it hard for students whose families moved to transition to other schools in other districts. Authority was divided between the Board of Education, community school boards, the chancellor and mayor. When things went wrong—which they did frequently—there was a lot of finger pointing. No one took responsibility. And no one was held accountable for incompetent teachers, failing schools and failing students. The results: our children were sacrificed. They under-performed and couldn’t hold their own against national, much less growing international standards.
 
Now with mayoral control the buck stops at the mayor’s desk and it is up to whoever is in that office to fix the problem or to be removed from office. In much the same way that the mayor has full authority over the city’s emergency services, including the fire department, police department, and EMS, the mayor now has full authority over the city’s school system, and full responsibility for its failure or success. When something goes wrong we know who to hold accountable and where to go to correct the matter.
 
Between now and June 30th we have an opportunity to protect our children’s education and to ensure that the school system continues to work toward improvement. Or, we can return to the bad old days of failure, incompetence and no accountability.
 
Let’s not sacrifice our children to competing interests. As immigrant parents and business leaders who gave up our home countries and came to the U.S. in search of better jobs and educational opportunities for our children, we must ensure that our children receive the best education possible.
 
To ensure continued mayoral control we must write or call our state assembly members and state senators and tell them to renew mayoral control. We must attend public hearings about the issue and let our voices be heard. To learn more about the issue visit www.learn-ny.org or call (212) 674-7770. Protect the education of our children. Extend mayoral control of the New York City public schools.
 
Roy A. Hastick, Sr., is the president, CEO and founder of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.
 
Written by EthnicWriter

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