Friday, June 30, 2017

Reverend Al and His Pals Support Mayoral Control

You can stop holding your breath. Al Sharpton has finally weighed in on the mayoral control issue, and he strongly supports it. (It is, incidentally, a done deal now, for two years.) You won't be surprised that some of his friends support it too. Mike Bloomberg was a big fan, and Arne Duncan has also supported it. Newt Gingrich has yet to weigh in because he's running around telling important lies about the GOP's most recent assault on health care.

Of course Sharpton trots out the standard line that scores have improved, ignoring the fact that this is a nationwide trend, mayoral control or no. Reverend Al further can't be bothered to notice New York's rich history of rampant test score manipulation. All the reformies jumped up and down when they improved under Al's pal Mike Bloomberg, and viciously ridiculed Diane Ravitch, who noticed the NAEP scores painted a vastly different picture. The following year, the New York Times and others noticed she was right, and Mike Bloomberg's draconian methods made no significant difference.

I particularly like this line:

There’s no disputing this fact: Mayoral control is the best way to run the largest public school system in the nation.

How could anyone argue with that, since there's no disputing it? But actually, there is. Diane Ravitch has been calling it a myth for years, and wrote in one of her books that it was a reformy shortcut to circumvent democracy. Bill Gates didn't spend $4 million promoting it just for fun,  Leonie Haimson calls it fundamentally undemocratic. I argued in the Daily News that it was destructive to public education. So there is, in fact, dispute, and I'd argue Sharpton has put forth another of those new and trendy "alternative facts" here.

I was particularly fond of this line:

First, public comment rules would change and the Board of Education would be able to meet in “executive session” — in other words, behind closed doors. The board could therefore make decisions without public comment.

I've been to many PEP meetings, as well as school closing hearings, and I've never seen Al Sharpton show his face. Had Sharpton bothered to show up, he'd have noticed that community residents do indeed get to speak, for two minutes each. He'd also have noticed that not only PEP members, but also school chancellors sat there playing around on their Blackberries blatantly ignoring what communities had to say. He'd also have noticed that decisions had already been made, and that the mayor's reps voted as told, regardless of community input. Liza Featherstone called the PEP a fake school board, and everything I've seen and heard supports that.

In fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired three PEP members rather than allow them to vote against him. I'd argue, therefore, that NYC's form of mayoral control more closely resembles mayoral dictatorship. Sharpton can call previous forms of educational input corrupt and ineffective, but taking community control away is fundamentally anti-democratic. Furthermore, this is not an "either or" situation. In creating a better system, we could reform the old one if need be. Nonetheless, I'd rather see communities in control than a mayor.

It's particularly egregious that mayoral control is absolute only when we have a reformy mayor. Bill de Blasio openly opposed charter schools when he ran, yet NY State would not allow him to block Eva Moskowitz. Instead it instituted a law forcing the city to pay rent for charters whether it wanted them or not.

I have no idea why Reverend Al is suddenly an authority on education. I know his interest seemed to coincide with a $500,000 contrbution, and that he rapidly thereafter embraced reformies like Duncan, Bloomberg, and Newt. I know that none of them support working people or union, and I know the kids we serve will suffer for it. I know when push came to shove at Jamaica High School and elsewhere, Sharpton was nowhere to be found.

I see absolutely no reason to listen to his highly flawed arguments now.
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