Volume 22, Number 01 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 15 - 21, 2009

Silver backs renewing mayor’s control of schools

By Josh Rogers

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said last week he does not want to take away the mayor’s control of the schools but is looking to give parents a “meaningful vehicle” to influence the decisions.

“This is not a matter of control, it’s a matter of transparency,” Silver told reporters Friday after delivering a speech on World Trade Center development. “It’s a matter of being heard. When people are heard, people react to what they’re saying. The question now is whether they have the opportunity to be heard, and creating the vehicles by which they can be heard without affecting who ultimately makes the decision.”

Mayoral control of the schools is set to expire at the end of June and the Assembly and State Senate are considering changes to the six-year-old law, which gave Mayor Bloomberg the power to pick the schools chancellor.

Silver, who helped write the original legislation, has made his support for renewing the law clear for some time — he told Downtown Express last summer he favored continuing it with some “tweaking” — but his remarks last week come in the face of growing resistance to renewal.

Community Board 1, some education advocates and some parent organizations have called for setting up a board independent of the mayor to run the schools. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have resisted any dilution of their powers, tying improvements to reading and math scores to the clear lines of accountability.

Mariama James, a Downtown parent and C.B. 1 member, said she remains a big supporter of Silver and his work to get money for schools although she was “extremely disappointed” to hear he supported renewing the mayor’s power.

“Children are being taught to the test,” James said, citing one of what she sees are many problems with the schools. James, whose children attend P.S. 234, Manhattan Academy of Technology and Millennium High School, said the mayor often points to the success of charter schools compared to other schools in the system, which is ironic since he has less control over charters.






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