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Debating mayoral control - Parents, educators want share in decision-making

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Democracy has suffered under mayoral control.

That’s the sentiment from parents and politicians who attended a town hall meeting to discuss the future of school governance now that mayoral control is up for review next year.

They say Mayor Michael Bloomberg has total control of schools and there are no checks and balances system in place to ensure that educators and the public have a say in policymaking.

“Shared decision making shouldn’t be, ‘I make a decision and I share it with you,’” said Emil Pietromonaco, co-chair of the United Federation of Teacher’s (UFT) School Governance Task Force.

The school system is “basically run by two people — the mayor and the chancellor,” Pietromonaco said.

“We need real checks and balances on the citywide level,” said City Councilmember Bill de Blasio.

When mayoral control was established in 2002, the public was given the impression that the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) would be a checks and balances system for the mayor.

However, “A lot of that hope disappeared the night the mayor chose to remove two members because they didn’t agree with his position on social promotion,” de Blasio said.

He’s referring to an evening in 2004 when Bloomberg abruptly replaced three members who were expected to vote against a proposed promotion policy for third-graders. His new appointees approved the policy and similar policies were ultimately implemented in grades five, seven and eight.

“If these are going to be seen as rubber-stamp panels,” Pietromonaco said, “there’s no reason to have them.”

Brooklynites at the town hall offered suggestions for how an “inclusive” public school system could work.

One parent suggested that the next mayor appoint a new schools chancellor “with advice and oversight by the City Council.”

Another parent recommended that unions be established to represent parents and students in discussions with city Department of Education (DOE) officials.

“Schools should be democracy in action,” said Ellen Raider, a member of the Independent Commission on Public Education (iCOPE), a Brooklyn-based organization of parents, educators and community activists.

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