The Mayor Who Says: My Way or No Way

Mayor Bloomberg needs to work within the system in order to change it

The controversy over New York City’s school system is never-ending.

Our tough, brash mayor has made reform of that system his top priority. Mayor Bloomberg insists that the elimination of 6,100 teaching positions is at stake. His critics say his rhetoric and threats are over the top.

But, after nearly 10 years of centralized control of the system, there is some confusion as to exactly what is happening. The New York Times' Fernanda Santos reports that the Mayor "has not even hinted to the teachers union leaders that he would retreat on the layoffs if concessions were made."

The administration’s position seems to be set in stone -- even as the Independent Budget Office says that more teachers might quit or retire than had been projected. That could mean the need for layoffs would decrease.

But that doesn’t seem to affect the Mayor or his aides. They seem bent on having it their way or no way.

Yet the most significant part of this picture appears to be the absence of any consideration by the Department of Education for the parents. That has been true since the beginning of mayoral control a decade ago when several parents were fired from an advisory board for daring to oppose an administration policy.

There is suspicion that the mayor’s intransigence on parent participation stems from his stubborn belief that, in the education area, he is always right -- and his opponents are always wrong. His record seems to make that clear.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Christine Quinn insist that savings in the education budget are possible but, so far, the mayor has not been listening.

One parent leader, Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, told me: "The Department of Education provides more and more money for charter schools, less and less for public schools. Regular schools are being starved. They’re destroying our schools. Parents shut out, ignored. Teachers stigmatized."

It's time to let the parents back in.  It's time for collaboration.

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