This winter, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is holding hearings to elicit public comment about the system of mayoral control of New York City public schools as they prepare a report to the state legislature ahead of the expiration of the policy in June 2024. It’s time to leave mayoral control behind and transition to a true democratic system of school governance.
MORE-UFT members and our allies across the education advocacy landscape have testified at the Bronx, Queens Manhattan and Brooklyn hearings, and are planning to testify in upcoming Staten Island hearings (1/29 from 6-9pm at New Dorp High School).
You can also submit written testimony by January 31, 2024 here.
Recordings of Mayoral Control hearings are available here.
Here are some of the key points and anecdotes that highlight the problems not just with the Adams administration of NYC schools but the entire system of mayoral control.
Corruption, Cronyism, and Nepotism
“To start, I want to zoom in on a few keywords that emerge when folks speak in favor of Mayoral Control: corruption, cronyism, and nepotism. As I was listening to the hearings last month, I noticed these terms were cited as the primary reasons why we must maintain the current governance structure. Naturally, I started thinking about the current administration and its relationship to the terms.
Under this administration,
- the Chancellor and the Mayor hired each other’s significant others to serve as Deputy Mayor and the “Senior Adviser to the Deputy Chancellor of School Leadership,”
- a DOE leader was promoted and her husband was subsequently hired to a role at Tweed
- raises were given to DOE officials after an OSI investigation found there was misconduct on their parts
- the new position of “Chief of School Leadership Development” was created, which came with a $20k raise for the person appointed- all while school budgets are being decimated. The person in that role previously oversaw a district that is set to lose $1.5 million in the most recent round of proposed cuts.
I bring up these examples, not to indict specific people, but rather to highlight that the current landscape is not free of corruption, cronyism, or nepotism.”
-Rachel Paguaga, UFT Chapter Leader and MORE member
Corporate Control of Our Schools
“The mechanisms that are set up to supposedly allow for community input under our current form of mayoral control are so restrictive that parents are essentially disenfranchised. NYC’s current form of current form of school governance should be called “Corporate Control of Our Schools.”
-Reyhan Mehran, parent activist
Silencing Student Voice
“The most offensive aspect of the PEP is the condescension paid to the student panelists. Their voices are supposedly “so valued” that they speak at the top of the meetings. Their insights are profound and courageously call out the vast discrepancies in our school system to the very folks who can do something about it. Rather than respond to the complex and nuanced content of student panelists, PEP mayoral appointees congratulate them on their articulateness and poise and ignore the pointed critiques they are receiving from the people they supposedly serve.”
-Martina Meijer, UFT Delegate and MORE member
Teachers are Being Trained by Salespeople
“Each mayor has arrived in office with new educational initiatives that purport to be the solution to all of our problems… Right now the literacy shifts that the Chancellor is promoting are a perfect illustration of why mayoral control doesn’t work. The shifts reflect a lot of what teachers have been asking for, for years. What we know to be best practice. But the problem is the rollout. This administration had no plan for how to select the curriculum or how to introduce this very ambitious shift in literacy teaching and learning. Teachers are being trained by salespeople during hastily thrown together professional development, rather than educators who know the curriculum well and can speak from experience about its effectiveness and how best to implement it. And worse, because there was no thought or investment put into how to compensate teachers for PD time outside of school hours, in the summer, during vacations, or after school, students are losing instructional time with their teachers because they are being constantly pulled into these unhelpful PD sessions.”
-Caitlyn Cahill, MORE Member
“Another result of mayoral control is the push for mandated, pre-packaged curriculum. I have a Masters’ Degree in Literacy Education, something NONE of our past three mayors have had, yet have no choice in which texts to teach my students. I know, as an educated professional, the texts I am forced to teach are not culturally responsive or academically engaging. Why am I not trusted to determine which classroom materials are culturally, socially, and academically appropriate for my students? Why is my expertise not respected? Having no autonomy in the classroom makes both me and my students want to leave the classroom. As long as we have mayoral control implementing policies that undermine the professionalism of teachers, we will continue to lose quality teachers.”
-Caro Tyner, MORE Member
“We have to go beyond just limiting the number of mayoral appointees on the PEP. Mayoral control of schools is so unaccountable, the DOE can bypass the PEP entirely to get what they want, which they seemingly do with impunity. Just ask [the Intellipure Air Purifier]. This is the official mascot of mayoral control. There’s nothing more symbolic for mayoral control than the tens of thousands of these intellipure air purifiers that sit collecting dust in the closets of our schools. More than 160,000! That was an $85 million contract on air filters that do not even filter COVID. If they’re not even HEPA, why then did the city double and triple down, spending $27 million on replacement filters? That contract was pushed through by Banks without PEP approval! Over $100 million dollars spent on door stops.”
- Frank Marino, UFT Delegate and MORE Member
Lack of Student Voice
“I am always impressed, but not surprised, by the poignant remarks of our student representatives of the PEP who work with incredible diligence to prepare their remarks, backed up by experience, personal anecdotes, and research to offer solutions with such clarity and expertise. At the same time, I am frequently disappointed by some of the adults at these meetings, the mayor’s appointees, who politely smile and nod and congratulate their efforts with what feels like a condescending pat on the head as they turn around and vote against these students' recommendations at every opportunity. Just like they vote against the overwhelming recommendations of parents and teachers over and over. This is what happens when the mayor appoints the majority of PEP members. These members are not here to listen to our children, or our parents, or teachers for that matter. It’s a sham, frankly and every single person who has ever attended a PEP meeting has seen this in action. It is truly a testament to the optimism of these young people and all the people that engage month after month insisting on being heard in a system designed to shut them out.”
- Beth McCune, MORE member
The Effects of Mayoral Control on our Students
“In a system that is supposed to serve students, how dare an adult hoard all the power and fight to keep it.
My name is Tea and for years I have been surrounded by wondering women, mothers, who fight for educational justice.
My mother, aunts and so many people have spent years of my childhood fighting for the schools my brother and I deserve.
And do you know what they've never had despite all their work, all the PEPs, the committees and task forces- POWER.
That is what Eric Adams has under mayoral control.
And how does he use it?
To fund police.
To criminalize children.
To defund libraries.
To defund childcare.
To defund parks.
To defund public education while allowing the charter schools that privatize our neighborhoods and donate to his campaigns to flourish.
This is the danger of mayoral control.
This is the COST of mayoral control.
Do you know what else mayoral control leaves out?
Students like me.
Did you know that the student members of the panel for educational policy can't vote on anything?
Did you know that the student voice coordinator at New York City public schools has absolutely no power?
Is the New York State education department aware that this time two years ago, thousands of students walked out of school for public health and the mayor ignored us when we asked for permanent remote options, KN95 masks and continued testing?
Listen. Just because Eric Adams wants to be a party promoter doesn't mean he gets to treat our schools like his own personal come up.
Students, families and New Yorkers deserve a say, a voice and the resources necessary to thrive.
We must END MAYORAL CONTROL in favor of democratic school governance NOW and we must ensure that people like the parents who came after my brother when he flipped the PEP vote that ended G&T don't get a day in our new democratic system since they don't know what democracy is!”
- Tea Healy, HS student with an IEP
Mayoral Control and D75
“My children are just starting HS. Chancellor Banks is my 7th Chancellor. Under Mayoral Control we have become the most segregated school system in the country. Under Mayoral Control IEP non compliance has gotten so high the state finally has to a sign a special master to intervene. Under Mayoral Control Central bureaucracy has tripled while schools are asking teachers to buy their own supplies. Under Mayoral Control we have privatized our public education by diverting tax dollars into the charter school industry while they cannibalize local schools struggling for resources in marginalized communities reinforcing the school to prison pipeline. I should not have to wait 10 years for a D75 middle school in my district. Under Mayor Adams D75 schools are on the brink of being cut $97 million which will endanger students with disabilities by eliminating entire paraprofessional budgets at some schools. Whether you call it Mayoral control or Mayoral Accountability, tyranny is still tyranny. End it now.”
- Paullette Healy, D75 community advocate
Mayoral Control Fosters Disengagement
“The Panel for Educational Policy embodies disenfranchisement. There is ONE member of the PEP who is NOT allowed to vote. That is the one student member. What message does that send to our young people who are asking themselves, does my voice matter to the people in charge?
Parents voice concerns about unsafe conditions in their child’s school, and they get the run around because it’s just too expensive to fix all the leaking roofs and broken windows and 100 year old ventilation systems, meanwhile the panel approves millions of dollars in contracts with details so confusing and opaque, half the time the members themselves don’t know what they’re voting on or which one of the mayor’s friends is getting the money. So parents learn that how their tax dollars are spent is not information they’re privy to, and that the system values some new app no one wants over their child’s immediate safety. Systems that don’t allow for meaningful participation lead to disengagement. We currently have record rates of absenteeism, a teacher shortage, a para shortage, a sub shortage… this disengagement is a result of mayoral control.”
- Kaiser, MORE member
Disrespect Towards Special Education Students and Families
“I was reflecting over the past 10 years, and I came to realize that one of the most consistent things I've witnessed, under 3 mayors , under 5 chancellors, has been the mismanagement of and disrespect towards special education students and families.
[W]hile I primarily spend my days teaching children, many of whom have had to move schools multiple times to find their appropriate placement, I also spend a huge chunk of my off time helping parents navigate the special education system at large. So don't tell me centralized power leads to more efficiency.
As 5th graders, my families are applying to middle school. That transition is already stressful enough. And far too often, I have families who are panicking because they want to ensure that their kids receive their legally mandated services in middle schools but are unsure if they'll find enough schools with 12:1 supports.
My first year teaching, I taught a child who was recommended for a specialized school. Our superintendent personally took the family on tours of schools, but when she realized that the school was not DOE funded, she essentially ghosted the family. Where is the accountability in that?
I want to be clear -- this is NOT a school issue, this is not a principal issue, this is not a superintendent issue: this is an issue of centralized control without transparency or accountability.
This is also not an Eric Adams issue. My 1st year of teaching I worked under Michael Bloomberg. I spent all year writing IEPs under a special ed audit with central supervision. And yet, here I am 10 years later, still helping families fight to find their legal rights. After 10 years, I have yet to encounter an administration that centers students and families over appearances and compliance.
We need a school governance that actually values and engages all families and communities. We need to end Mayoral control.”
- Jen Finn, MORE member