Schools: Why We Need Mayoral Control

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After more than a decade of the frustration of a system where there was no accountability, finally we have someone to hold accountable—the Mayor. Under mayoral control the system has produced results and it’s a system, which, if we all work hard, we can make even better.

[Op-Ed: Education]

Everything I have learned over the last two decades about New York City public schools suggests that the Mayor must have the power to act quickly and boldly when our children’s educational well-being is at risk. With Mayoral Control, we know who to hold accountable for failure within the system which ultimately affects our children.

Under Mayoral control the public schools are making progress and low-income children of color are closing the achievement gap. So we applaud our leaders in Albany – Assembly Speaker Silver, Senate Majority Leader Smith, and Governor Paterson – for supporting renewal of mayoral control with a mayoral majority on the Panel for Education Policy. Only with a majority of appointments can a mayor have the authority to turn around the school system, and only then can we hold a single person accountable for our children’s educational success.

Over the last 10 months, Learn NY and our coalition partners have listened to the experiences of 16,000 public school parents and have participated in hundreds of events at schools and community centers. Parents in local communities are becoming more engaged in the mayoral control issue because they realize what’s at stake. We’ve got 8,000 parents who’ve become vocal advocates for mayoral control with a mayoral majority because they realize that we can’t return to the bad old days of failure and no accountability.

We’ve got 1.1 million kids in the public school system -- the majority of them children of color. Those kids deserve a fighting chance. Under mayoral control they’ll get that chance.

I started advocating on behalf of New York City public schools in 1983. I’ve been at the same agency for 25 years, working with kids through my organization, the Harlem Children’s Zone. The Mayoral Control issue is a personal matter for me because in 1990 when I began working in District 5 it was among the worst districts in New York State.

It was comprised of poor African-American children denied the chance for fair and equitable educational opportunities–a district of scandal that between 1970 and the late 80s had seen13 superintendents. The lack of educational opportunity was so evident.  The old system was in place and no one had the authority to do anything and for a decade the kids didn’t learn. 

I saw the damage the old system did, and in 2002 when mayoral control came in I hoped that it would lead to real change for poor children in New York City. And it has. Reading scores, math scores, and graduation rates are up.

The children of Harlem have much better options today in a district that contains public charter schools and improved traditional public schools. After more than a decade of the frustration of a system where there was no accountability, finally we have someone to hold accountable—the Mayor. Under mayoral control the system has produced results and it’s a system, which, if we all work hard, we can make even better.
 

Mr. Canada is President & CEO of the famed Harlem Children’s Zone, and Board Chair of Learn NY

Harlem Children's Zone, the school headed by Mr. Canada has been so succesful in raising test scores of Black students that President Obama is making funding available to try and replicate its
success nationally.

Please post your comments directly online or submit them to
milton@blackstarnews.com for publication

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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