Mayoral Control/ Charter Pork

Jun 20, 2017 by

Thoughtful people of good-will may theoretically disagree on whether mayoral control of our city’s public schools has worked well and should continue in their present form, be modified but retained or abandoned altogether.  Everybody acknowledges that how schools are to be run is a matter of critical importance that must be decided one way or the other.

Pending settlement of the clash over whether to lift the cap on charter schools, politicians are holding hostage  the pressing issue of mayoral control.  What they are doing is irrational and an example of why cynicism about politicians is not only justified, it is a moral duty. Jockeying for power and credit and engaging in brinkmanship as an extreme sport, they’re just a bunch of narcissists  competing in a pissing contest.

If there’s no deal by the 30th, the former much-maligned system will go back into effect. Citywide it was a mixed-bag, but many of the 32 community districts were far superior to the current centralized bureaucracy.

They were elected by parents and other community residents and voted on whether to renew the community superintendent’s contract. That made both the boards and senior administrators more responsive. District office personnel, such as the personnel director, special education supervisor, business manager had direct phone lines and generally took calls from parents and teachers. There was a straight clear line of accountability.

Of course human nature is always operational and there was opportunism, ambition, nepotism, cronyism and favoritism .But there was also much more transparency than there is now, though lip-service about parent engagement and random acts of professionalism by teachers still abounds.  A thick cataract covers the eye of the public’s viewing of education these days.

Where I was assigned, identifiable corruption was minimal. Abusive school leaders also had more to fear back then when the chancellor didn’t have the power or inclination to protect them. No doubt there were pockets, perhaps vast stretches of mischief among districts, but no more than there are among other electoral districts.

Charter schools, which get transfusions of monetary sustenance from the public without being subjected to standards of oversight regulated by the public’s representatives, are private businesses whose fates should not be tethered to the structure of government institutions.

I predict, though, that the time-sensitive matter of mayoral control will be determined at “the 11th hour.” Right now the politicians are playing up to their base and playing down the damage their intransigence is doing to them.  There will be handshakes,unimpeded by greased palms, and the ungovernable hormones of the partisans will abate.

It will be a cliff-hanger, It would be sweet if the charter pork could hang no longer and fell off that cliff.

Ron Isaac

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