Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times editorial today examines the education record of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and provides an analysis of what the next mayor might do to improve New York City’s public schools. It is a balanced analysis from a newspaper that has supported Michael Bloomberg and his policies. On the positive side:
“Mr. Bloomberg has accomplished a great deal since becoming the first mayor to gain full control of the system. He brought coherence and stability to a troubled organizational structure that saw school chancellors come and go as if through a revolving door. He swept away a byzantine bureaucracy that had defeated his predecessors and created clear lines of authority. He negotiated a union contract that ended a transfer policy allowing senior teachers to move from one school to another, pushing out younger teachers, even if the receiving school did not want them. He improved graduation rates.”
On the downside:
“Mr. Bloomberg’s often highhanded style, however, alienated parents, teachers and lawmakers, some of whom now want a greater check on mayoral power… Mr. Bloomberg’s policy of closing large, failing schools and replacing them with smaller schools is unpopular with teachers, many of whom have to find jobs elsewhere in the system. And some adults have emotional ties to a school, however terrible it has become. The city has sometimes made matters worse by handling closures badly. But replacing dropout factories with specialized schools that provide individual attention is a sound idea. Of the 142 schools the city has either closed or begun phasing out, many had outlived their usefulness… New York City has 159 charter schools, which educate about 5.5 percent of the city’s children…But critics say the city’s charter school effort has a big problem — namely, it allows some charter schools to share precious space with regular public schools. In a few extreme cases, critics say, the regular school students are treated like second-class citizens in a building that once belonged to them.”
The editorial goes on to evaluate possible changes to governance, school closings, and charter school operations. The next mayor will have many important decisions to make to improve the public schools, most important of all will be the leader. Mayor Bloomberg did very poorly in his first two appointments of Joel Klein and Kathy Black. Dennis Walcott has been a better chancellor than his two predecessors. We wish the new mayor and new chancellor well!