On mayoral control of NYC public schools.

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Omare Kinsey, is a Brooklyn native and graduate of Howard University. He is a representative of the New York City Neighborhood School Control Coalition, a group set up to campaign against NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt at extending his centralized Mayoral Control over the city's education system. Mr. Kinsey is a regular contributor to The Liberator.

Since 2002, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has had control of the New York City Public Schools. On June 20th, 2009, the State Legislature (State Assembly and State Senate) MUST make a decision that, with the help of voters in NYC, will eliminate the one-man rule of city schools. Let me explain what mayoral control is and why this one-man rule has been a negative circumstance for African people in New York City.

Michael Bloomberg, the successful billionaire and owner of Bloomberg L.P., has been running this city’s schools under the rule of mayoral control. What mayoral control does is take away the power of school boards and gives their responsibility to the mayor. Therefore, administrators are no longer elected, but instead appointed by the mayor. You might think that -- if the mayor has the best interest of the city’s education and students in mind -- mayoral control is a good thing. However, Mayor Bloomberg, as said before, is a businessman and his chancellor is a lawyer, neither with any background in education.

Since this businessman has been in control, we have seen the rise of the charter school. Charter school populations are selected by lotteries and advertise smaller classroom sizes and better education than public schools. However, these numbers are regularly tampered with and skewed (i.e. cases like YCD at Erasmus high school where teachers were outright told to change "Regents" [test] grades by the principal). Also, they are never much higher than the public school's results. The difference is that public school records are -- just that -- public record, and charter schools are not forced to disclose there numbers to the public. This allows charter school parents to be played against the parents of public school children. By giving them a false sense of privilege, they become manipulated allies of the mayor in whatever his attempts may be.

In New York, charter schools have been heavy opponents to organized parent involvement in their schools (Parent Teacher Associations, etc). Some are going as far as to threaten legal action against parents who try to organize other school parents into any kind of collective decision-making body. As a charter school administrator, by keeping the parents out of the loop, you can feed them tainted numbers to keep them satisfied, while exploiting and/or mis-educating their children.

Meanwhile, I was wondering why many of the city’s public schools were being broken up into smaller "schools", all within the same building of the former "large" school. I was told on the local news that this was an attempt to create smaller classroom sizes, similar to the mission of the charter schools. However, I've since learned that this was a plan to inject these broken schools with pre-formed administrations coming from the mayor’s Leadership Academy -- a boot camp for aspiring principals to be appointed by the mayor. These administrators and administrative teams -- the majority of which are not from the communities they are going to serve in -- are sent in to "reform" these schools, micromanage the curriculum, and create a data-driven, test score-dependent school to increase numbers for the mayor’s agenda.

Now, all of this may not sound that bad. And to some, it may sound like a good plan. But the reality is that Mayor Bloomberg has risen from thirty-fourth, on the Forbes list of the richest Americans, to eighth. With a net worth of over $20 billion. However, he has only been paid $1 a year for his whole term in the Mayor’s office. So he has to be making his money some other way. With that said, since he has been in office, the privatization of New York City in general has heightened. From hospitals, to real estate, to simple construction in the street, the contracts for these have been going to private corporations, most of which just happen to be friends of the mayor. And Education, at the expense of your babies, is no exception. All the contracts in city schools, from food to books, are now given to private multinational corporations. Whereas, before, community supported bookstores such as DARE books in downtown Brooklyn had access to these contracts.

Actually, when I was in elementary school in Brooklyn, the milk we drank was from a milk factory two blocks from the school. So this takes away from the economic progress, local solidarity and self-sufficiency of our communities. Parents' roles in the schools are being diminished, in turn, taking away the accountability of the school. This weakens our communities socially and culturally because we have no control or input in what our children are being taught and how they are treated. Our students are receiving a test-geared education, which doesn’t intend for them to learn life skills, but instead trains them to become better workers and fit into the city’s business plan. Students begin to lose interest in this mis-education, resulting in over 160,000 students per day being absent from school. On top of all this, these students are learning in a police state, encouraged by the Lawyer/Chancellor Joel Klein, which has seen the number of student arrests and abuse by the security guards/police skyrocket. Also, school based and community based stakeholders are eliminated from making any kind of input to neighborhood schools, while four-year high school graduation rates are lower than ever.

Mayor Bloomberg and his administration have simply used their money and influence to amend the law which allows him to now run for a third term. Now, on top of that, he is setting up the reinstatement of mayoral control.

You may have seen the propaganda "Keep It Going NYC" advertisements throughout the city, promoting false improvements to the city’s schools. When he says "keep it going", it should be referring to the upward direction of his net worth, and those of all his friends. Through mayoral control, the plan is to sell and privatize the city’s schools just as they have done with our city's hospitals. We can not allow this to happen. Say no to mayoral control. Research your state senators and assembly persons and find out their position on Mayoral Control. Stay tuned for more info on hearings and mark your calendar for June 20th.