Most Downtown parents want school changes, Glick’s survey finds
By Julie Shapiro
An informal survey conducted by Assemblymember Deborah Glick’s office found people in her district turning against mayoral control of the city’s schools.
Eighty-five percent of the 257 people surveyed either want mayoral control to end or want changes before it is renewed.
“Parents don’t think they have a voice across the board in the school system,” said Bethany Jankunis, Glick’s chief of staff, as she presented the results to Community Board 1 Tuesday.
“That’s because they don’t,” replied Paul Hovitz, a C.B. 1 member.
Glick, whose district includes Tribeca, Soho, the Village and part of Battery Park City, has not taken a formal position on mayor control, which started in 2002 and expires in June, because she is waiting to hear from her constituents, but she would not renew it as is, Jankunis said. C.B. 1’s Youth and Education Committee made its position clear Tuesday night: Either end mayoral control or renew it with so many changes that it would need a different name.
Hovitz, former chairperson of the Youth Committee, said he sees advantages to the Board of Education model that preceded mayoral control. The Board of Education gave each of the borough presidents a voice in selecting the schools chancellor, while under mayoral control, the choice is Mayor Bloomberg’s alone. Parents also had more power under the prior system because they could help select superintendents, said Hovitz, who used to teach public school in the city.
“Parents and communities actually had a say [under the old system],” Hovitz said. Now, he said, “The chancellor and mayor do as they please.”
Added Bob Townley, a C.B. 1 member, “The chancellor should be beholden to people other than the mayor.”
Barry Skolnick, another C.B. 1 member, said parents need a voice not just locally to select superintendents but also centrally, where all the decisions are made.
“Until we get parent involvement centrally, we won’t be able to impact the decisions,” he said.
The C.B. 1 members listed many grievances against Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, from an overemphasis on test taking to the debacle of this year’s kindergarten admissions.
Glick’s survey revealed some of the same frustrations C.B. 1 members voiced.
Over 70 percent of parents surveyed said the Dept. of Education was not responsive to their concerns, and just over half chose class size as their top concern.
Of those who want mayoral control renewed but modified, 90 percent want the D.O.E. to consult the Community Education Councils before making policy and program changes, the survey found. Other changes that garnered wide support were for the D.O.E. to be subject to more review and for the D.O.E. to undergo an annual independent audit of its statistics and expenditures. Unlike most city agencies, the D.O.E. does not have to submit its budget to the City Council for review.
Glick surveyed people in her district at a forum she held last November and through a link her staff distributed online. Nearly 75 percent of the respondents had children under 18 years old.
A more scientific Quinnipiac University poll last month surveyed 984 New York City voters and found that 55 percent wanted mayoral control to be renewed. But while half of all voters approved of the way Bloomberg is handling the schools, only 37 percent of parents said they approved, Quinnipiac found. Still, 53 percent of parents are satisfied with their local school.
On Feb. 6, Klein testified before the state Assembly, citing his progress and encouraging them to renew mayoral control.
“There are things we’ve learned since 2002, things we could no doubt have done better with the benefit of hindsight,” Klein told the Assembly’s Education Committee. “I’m confident we can build a better process.”