Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein Told to Relax on Mayor Control of Schools

Diane J. Savino

ALBANY - Several state lawmakers warned Tuesday they intend to soften mayoral control over the schools - and urged Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein to get on board.

"If you come in here and continue to say to us that the system is perfect - leave it that way, you're going to be very unhappy," Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) told Klein at a Senate Education Committee hearing.

Lawmakers seemed most focused on getting more parental involvement on the chief policy-making board, which the mayor now controls, as well as more independent monitoring of the Department of Education.

"Mayoral control has been a disaster," Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) told Klein.

Bloomberg and Klein have insisted that the opposite is true.

They point to rising test scores and graduation rates over the last several years as proof that their approach is working.

Earlier in the day, a dozen state lawmakers attended a rally of 200 parents and others who want changes to the mayoral control law that expires June 30.

In between chants of "One-man rule has got to go," lawmakers like Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said the new law has got to make the Panel on Educational Policy more than a "rubber stamp."

At the very least, some lawmakers said, members of the educational policy panel should have fixed terms so the mayor can't just get rid of those who disagree with him.

Others say the mayor should no longer have the power to appoint the majority of the board.

"This Department of Education can continue under mayoral control, but the mayor doesn't need to control everything," said Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island).

Klein argued that, overall, the 2003 mayoral control law has been successful.

He acknowledged the city could do a better job involving parents, but warned, "If you have divided autonomy, what you have is no one in charge.

"No law is perfect, but the question is are you improving it or making it worse?"

He later told reporters an independent board "would return this city to the politics of paralysis and undermine continuing education."