Senator Flanagan Calls For Change In Education Commissioner Selection


Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today announced that he and his Senate colleagues will be introducing legislation to reform and improve accountability within New York State’s public education system by giving the Governor the power to appoint the Commissioner of Education.

Currently, this important selection is under the control of the Board of Regents, which is not directly accountable to voters. By placing this important choice in the hands of the top elected official in the state, the legislation would centralize control and provide residents with a greater opportunity to voice their opinion.

This legislative initiative would also place control over what many see as one of the most important positions in New York State on the same level as the heads of other large agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Transportation.

The legislation is similar to the landmark 2002 New York City school governance reform/mayoral control legislation, which continues to produce strong signs of progress and positive results.

Since the implementation of the New York City mayoral control legislation in 2002, the City school system has continued to demonstrate significant signs of progress and success. According to the testimony delivered to the Senate Finance Committee by Chancellor Klein last month:

"Students at all grade levels have achieved real gains in math and reading—progressing at substantially higher rates than students in the rest of the state. ….our fourth-graders have gained almost 19 percentage points in math over the past four years, compared to almost 5.5 points gain by fourth-graders in the rest of the State. In English, our fourth-graders have gained almost 12.5 points, compared to only 3.5 points by students in the rest of the state. Graduation rates are higher than they’ve been in more than 20 years. The City’s schools are safer, class sizes are smaller, teachers are paid 43 percent more, and the department has cut more than $270 million from the bureaucracy and redirected it to schools and classrooms where it can help students learn."

Upon adoption of this reform, New York would join states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, Delaware, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee and Maine where the Governor is empowered to select the state's chief education officer.

New York’s educational system has long been criticized for having a lack of accountability to the public. The proposal being advanced by the Senate would streamline the process and make it more efficient by empowering the Governor, regardless of political party, to appoint the Commissioner of Education. This would allow the current and future Governors to more effectively implement their education policies, initiatives, and budget priorities.

"We have reached a truly critical point regarding the future of education in our state and now is the time for true leadership," said Senator Flanagan. "This appointment is too important to allow future selections to be shrouded in any bureaucracy or ambiguity. Parents should know who is responsible for the educational choices that affect their children and they should have the ability to voice their opinion. By making the Governor the central figure in this process, we can shine a clearer light on the process and make sure that performance and accountability are the keys to the future."