August 12, 2009
After much squabbling and power grabbing, the New York state legislature has given mayoral control of New York City's schools back to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, thirty-eight days after the six-year old measure expired. Ironically, the United Federation of Teachers helped Bloomberg score this victory, though some insist that the new law doesn't do nearly enough to rein in Bloomberg's sometimes heavy-handed tactics. Gadfly tends to see the legislative tweaks, which focus on increased transparency, oversight, and community input, as a decent compromise. Bloomberg (and schools chancellor Joel Klein) retains much of his former power, but district superintendents will get more operational authority; schools will have to communicate with parents more often; and the city must hold community hearings before shutting a school, amongst other things. But what's still unknown--and left unresolved by the state law--is what happens come November 2013. The Senate's extension is for six years, which will at least leave 2 years for another mayor. (We're assuming Bloomberg's impending reelection in November 2009, which looks promising; he is currently ahead of his primary challenger, city comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., by 10 points in the polls.) As history has taught us, mayoral control is only as good as the mayor to whom the power is bestowed, and those he appoints.
"N.Y. Senate Renews Mayor's Power to Run Schools," by Jennifer Medina, New York Times, August 7, 2009