Senate Passes NYC School Governance Legislation

August 06, 2009

(New York, NY) - The New York State Senate passed five critical pieces of legislation and a resolution reforming school governance policy for the City of New York.   The school governance reform package passed by the Senate empowers parents with greater access to the school system, increases transparency and fiscal oversight, promotes enhanced arts education, addresses concerns over school safety procedures and strengthens the role of community superintendents.
“There is nothing as sacred as ensuring a quality education for all our children,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm A. Smith. “Establishing greater avenues for parental input will better prepare students to contribute as our next generation of thinkers, workers and leaders. And strengthening measures for transparency and fiscal accountability ensures a sound return on our most important investment- the education of our children. We now have a system designed to serve their needs and provide the education our children deserve.”
“The new school governance reform package will hold Mayor Bloomberg accountable for the performance of the city's public school system, but equally important it will allow greater parental involvement in their children's education, increased curriculum oversight by senior school officials, and decision-making input at the school level by superintendents, principals and parents on such issues as academic programs, transportation, school safety and nutrition,” said Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, Jr. (D-Bronx). “It will enhance areas that need improvement, such as English learning programs, and further strengthen areas that have experienced success. This new legislation creates a network of support for our children and will result in greater student achievement,” added Sen. Espada, a former bilingual education teacher in the city’s public schools.
“From the beginning of the debate on school governance, the State Senate Majority has focused on increasing accountability, greater transparency and enhanced involvement for parents,” said Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson. “Taken together – the reforms to school governance are a real step forward for our school children and their parents, and give us confidence that when we look down the road, real improvements will be made in a system that serves 1.1 million children.”
"Today, New York State's 62 Senators put New York City's 1.1 million schoolchildren first.   This bill increases transparency and parental involvement while preserving a clear line of authority that holds the mayor accountable for the performance of the schools.   With this bill, parents will have a stronger voice and will never have to wonder who is responsible for their children's education.   With continued oversight, this bill will help us close the achievement gap, increase graduation rates and move us toward providing a world-class education for every single child in this city,” said Senator Daniel Squadron.
“Giving Superintendents a greater stake in their schools is sure to bolster the quality of education. We need professionals on the ground with oversight over school curriculum and instruction so that our students are assured greater success,” said Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Brooklyn). “With someone on hand to personally monitor the day to day progression of our schools, the end result will be greater accountability and responsibility to the quality of the curriculum and manner in which it is delivered.”
Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) said, “Arts education is an integral part of our students’ cognitive development, and provides our youth with skills that are critical to academic achievement. The creation of an Arts Advisory Committee is a vital step in to protecting and promoting a quality arts education curriculum that will yield real results, fostering a new generation of thinkers with inspired vision, and the skills needed to carry it out.”
Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) states, “School safety is a priority for all parents and educators, for a secure and non-threatening atmosphere is a pre-requisite for learning.   In the past, parents and guardians have often felt uncomfortable interacting with school safety officers and NYPD personnel and voicing their concerns over both underreported activities and possible over-policing tendencies.   This bill aims to get to the heart of these concerns by providing an environment where parents can talk about school safety matters, including the role of the NYPD, and can make suggestions for improvement. The amendment requires the chancellor to direct each school or established committee within the school to hold meetings to discuss any and all safety concerns.   We must do everything we can to help students learn by maintaining the safest learning environment.”
“As a State Senator I was given a mandate from my district to ensure their concerns are heard and they are afforded a seat at the table when it comes to the education of the city’s 1.1 million school children,” said Senator Shirley Huntley, School Governance Task Force co-chair. “I am pleased key amendments included in the school governance bill will increase the accountability and transparency of the city’s education system, and more importantly increase parental involvement.”
Bill Summaries
S5887 amends the education law relating to the governance of the New York City public school system while enhancing the opportunities for parental and community input into the school district’s decision making process. The bill will also provide additional focus for English Language Learning students and high schools; re-establish the community superintendents as educational leaders in their community who will be responsive to the parents, and provide more opportunities for teachers and parents to influence system outcomes.   Additionally, the bill will improve fiscal oversight and accountability, and promote diversity in hiring and contracting. 
S6104 (Dilan) expands the powers and duties of community superintendents, granting them greater oversight powers to evaluate school principals based on the quality of curriculum and instruction. By providing for an analysis of school curriculum and instruction, the superintendents will now be able to focus on the most important aspect of the schools: the classroom.
S6105 (Serrano) establishes an arts advisory committee to advise the board on matters relating to arts training. The committee is empowered to advise the board on educational and instructional policies regarding arts education; report annually on the school districts’ effectiveness in providing arts education; make recommendations to improve arts education; and hold public meetings relating to arts education.
S6106 (Adams) requires each school to hold at least annual meetings where parents can discuss safety concerns in their school, including procedures used by school safety officers. This amendment grants parents a forum to debate and address safety concerns relating to their child’s school.
S6107 (Huntley) creates parent training centers operated by the City University of New York in each of the five boroughs. The parent training centers will design and implement programs for parental engagement to enhance parents’ ability to support students’ educational success by helping parents communicate with school administrators and teachers, track their child’s performance, and foster an environment for learning at home. 
The Senate also passed a resolution creating the Senate Select Committee on New York City School Governance. The Committee will oversee implementation of the school governance legislation and provide an effective oversight body to protect parents, taxpayers and students.