October 15, 2008
First and foremost, we would like to thank State Senator Bill Perkins and the Senate Democratic Conference Task Force on NYC School Governance for holding these important open hearings on NYC School Governance. We, in BNYEE are strong advocates of participatory governance- both in the electoral arena and the public school system.
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence sees mayoral control of public education in any of its variations as fundamentally countering the basic tenets of democracy. We also see it is an evergrowing path to completely privatizing public education. Moreover, we support the Independent Commission on Public Education’s (ICOPE’s) Vision of a totally new public education system grounded in the fact that education is a Human Right and that parents, students and educators have equal decision-making roles within their schools.
We have answered your questions below, but would also like to take this opportunity to offer solutions to the pressing issue of the systematic “disappearing” of Black and Latino educators from the school system. You may be aware of the fact that in the 1990-91 school year, white new teacher hires were 45% while Black and Latino new teacher hires were 16% and 12% respectively. This was bad because of the fact that most students (83%) were Black and Latino and the teaching staff was 80+% white. Some 17 years later, under the mayoral control of Bloomberg-Klein the white new hires are 65% while Black and Latino new teacher hires are 12.8% and 13% respectively! (see attached NYC DOE data)
Meanwhile, the Black & Latino student population has remained about 80% of the student population. Moreover, we have lost hundreds of Black and Latino educators since 1990-91 school year because of retirement, transfers, resignations and deaths. We see this reality when we look at the total data on teachers over the past 7 years. In 2001 Black & Latino teachers comprised 22.1% and 14% respectively of the total teaching staff. But, in 2008 those percentages decreased to 20.1% and 13.8% respectively while white teachers remained about the same: 60.1% in 2001 and 59.9% in 2008.
Compensating for the loss of Black & Latino educators has not been a priority with Bloomberg & Klein. Nor is it a priority with the UFT. They both give a bogus reason for the vanishing Black or Latino educator: the lure of higher paying jobs in other fields. The reality is that Black and Latino college students still major in education at a greater rate than any other major. For Black College undergrads nationwide, Education majors are 34% of all the majors... almost doubling the next highest major: Business at 16%.
Solving this Crisis of Vanishing Black/Latino Educators
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence is advocating that we have the current Board of Education immediately take the at least 60+ million dollar annual teacher recruitment budget and redirect it to launch a community-based recruitment and education campaign that is structured around a two-year, four-year and eight-year strategy of reaching Black & Latino teacher parity that matches the demographics of the student population. This campaign would include:
1. Free tuition through graduate school for all those Black & Latino parents, college-bound High School grads and other adults who want to earn an education degree and commit to teaching at least five years within the NYC school system. CUNY, SUNY and private schools will be the participating colleges and universities.
2. The Board of Ed will pay for 50% of the fulltime in good standing Ed major’s rent or mortgage and for 3 years 30% of their rent or mortgage as long as they are fulltime teachers.
3. The Board of Ed have at least10 fulltime Community Teacher Recruiters in each Boro spending the next 4 years actively recruiting and enrolling potential educators from the Black and Latino communities.
4. Bring at least 100 retired Black & Latino educators out of retirement thru various financial incentive programs and enhanced new retirement policies including comprehensive FREE medical (including dentistry) coverage.
5. Institutionalize a Black & Latino Recruitment & Retention Commission and Program to help seek and keep the Black & Latino educators.
Has Mayoral Control improved the education of our students?
We answer this in the strongest negative possible. We have a ton of statistical data that reveals that mayoral control has encouraged more miseducation that ever before. We will just mention two central pieces of data:
(a) under this current mayoral control structure, the chance of a 2007 Black Male kindergartener graduating from college is 3 in 100
(b) under mayoral control, the percentage of Black new hires in teaching dropped from a high of 27% to 12% today
Are children being educated? Are children learning the necessary
skills they need to compete in today’s global economy?
We answer this in the strongest negative possible. Under mayoral control, we have seen a growth in mis-education and the number of our school age youth entering the criminal justice system. We have seen the high school graduation rate deteriorate to just 45% being able to graduate within four years. And within that figure, Black and Latino male graduate rate hovering below 25%. The vast majority of our high school students have no clue on how many states make up the US- much less the basic structure of the US government, or NY State or NY City Governments. And don’t ask a typical NYC teenager any questions about the rest of the world: for them there is no difference between China and Chile... and Africa is a nation.
The reading and math levels of our high school students have stagnated: they reflect a knowledge level of 6th grade and 4th grade respectively.
Under mayoral control, our children have been so test-driven that their critical thinking skills are no better than a six year old.
Has mayoral control helped or hindered the provision of services to
immigrant students, students with disabilities, and/or students with
Under mayoral control, the ESL programs have either been defunded or underfunded in direct proportion to the increasing number of immigrant students. And the mayor threatens to eliminate even more using the “economic crisis” boogeyman.
Has mayoral control done anything with respect to curbing the
segregation that exists in many of our schools? What can be done
to improve integration and diversification of our schools?
In NYC, like most major urban areas in the US, the question of integration is moot since the white population is usually under 25%. Rather, it is more about the equitable distribution of resources and Black, Latino and Asian parents, students and communities having POWER within the public education system.
Before Mayoral Control, the youth had a participatory role in the
decision making process of providing education. How has Mayoral
Control helped or hurt the role of youth input and youth leadership?
We support the YRNES (Youth Researchers for a New Education System) Report’s findings that expose the systematic alienation of young people from having any voice and power within the current mayoral controlled school system.
The Bloomberg-Klein governance structure eliminated all the efforts to involving students within the daily school functions. They imposed even more draconian policing policies that rendered a school building literally off limits to young people after school hours—unless there was an afterschool program in the building.
How has Mayoral Control affected the policing and criminalization of
our students? What can be done to reverse these unfavorable trends?
Under Bloomberg-Klein, the public school’s security force has become larger than the entire police force of Washington, DC! Schools look more like prisons than places of learning... and everyday thousands of high school students are frequently late to first period class because they have to go through a gauntlet of frisking, interrogation, disrobing and metal detectors.
1. One of the first things that can be done to reverse this criminalization of our youth is to get rid of the metal detectors and frisking procedures.
2. UNdeputize the NYC public school security force. That is, delink them from being an extension of the NYPD.
3. Have student, parent and teacher greeters at the school’s entrance and hall monitors
4. Hold a Security Assembly at the beginning of 2009 school year in ALL schools and get not only student input, but also a student-parent-educator security Taskforce up and running that would redesign the school’s way of handling security.
In what ways would you recommend creating stronger lines of
communication between the Department of Education and the entire
The NYC DOE should be restructured along the lines recommended by the ICOPE Vision Plan. This would mean direct parent, student and educator participation at the school, neighborhood, borough and citywide level. No more overpaid and predominantly white non educators running the education system as a corporation or bank for the sake of lining the wallets of their cronies.
What additional mechanisms would you create and institute to
strengthen DOE’s relationship with the school community?
Every school should be open –without cost- to the community to use for meetings and cultural activities seven days a week. Every school should be open to any parent or concerned community person to visit and provide support. There are numerous wise and highly talented and skilled people living in our 250 neighborhoods who are ready and willing to come into their neighborhood school and help in the intellectual, emotional and physical development of the children.
In what ways can we better measure the success of the schools?
• Success in school should be measured in how many of the children go on and graduate from college or have mastered a highly skilled craft.
• Success in school should be measured by how joyfully noisy and colorful the school building is inside and out.
• Success in school should be measured by how many parents- regardless of race and nationality- want their children to be at that school... even if it is in the heart of Bed-Stuy or Jackson Heights or the South Bronx.
• Success in school should be measured in how the community is an integral part of the daily activities at the school. From dietary support to cultural and athletic contributions along with active participation on school committees.
• Success in school should be measured by increasing levels of teacher retention and increasing teacher recruitment from the neighborhood.
• Success in school should be measured by how the students, teachers and staff work together to make the school an environmentally safe zone that, in turn, expands that zone to encompass the school’s neighborhood.
• Success in school should be measured by how the students are directly involved in the daily running of their school.
• Success in school should be measured by how the education staff reflects the cultural reality of the children in the school as well as how many of the educators live in the neighborhood.
• Success in school should be measured by the growing numbers of musicians, artists and athletes graduating.
• Success in school should be measured by how great the food taste in the cafeteria.
• Success in school should be measured by how the schoolyard is use for fun and exercise instead of a parking lot for teachers’ cars.
• Success in school should be measured by how so few students race to get away from the school at the end of classes.
What kinds of transparency in the Department of Education’s school
budget should be instituted in order to insure that all state funds are
applied according to the decision in the CFE case?
First, the school budget should be determined at each school and the allocation of funds should come directly to the school. The interim mechanism functions without any elected official in the mix. Thru already established funding formula and others- at the state level –we will see the direct funding mechanism flourish with transparency and anticorruption.
What kinds of transparency in the school budget should be required
in order to prevent the supplanting of state funds?
Again, see the ICOPE Vision Plan for specifics.
Are there successful school governance mechanisms that have been
implemented by other states or localities that could serve as models
for New York?
Yes! Look to McCoombs, Mississippi or the New Hampshire model. There is also the Edmonton, Canada model of successful school governance with direct parental decision-making power over all aspects of the city’s public education system.
Should an independent board be convened to help provide oversight
of the DOE?
Yes! This independent board should be the Transition Commission that oversees the dismantling of the present structure and the creation of the more democratic Human Rights-centered neighborhood based public school system outlined in ICOPE’s Vision Plan.
In what ways could the New York City Council be given oversight of
the Chancellor’s administrative powers?
NY City Council should replace the NY State assembly and Senate as the primary political and fiscal oversight body. Who better to know the intricacies and complexities of this city’s neighborhood needs and desires. The ICOPE Plan details this kind of restructuring.
In what ways should the internal audit controls be strengthened for
the current procurement policies and hiring of consultants?
See the ICOPE Plan for the specifics on how transparency comes through the direct participation of parents, educators and students in procurement policies and hiring of consultants.
BNYEE is also a strong advocate of making Black History (African and Diasporic histories and cultures) a mandatory requirement for all students from Kindergarten all the way through High School. We feel it should be a requirement for graduation from high school.
We recognize that there cannot be US history without Black History... nor can there be a World History without African History. These facts have been systematically denied within the current mayoral controlled education system. Bloomberg-Klein use the excuse of the battery of Eurocentric Hi-Stakes Testing pushed on our children as the reason why we have witnessed the erasure of the fledgling Black History Curriculum and the elimination of the Multicultural Department within the Dept of Education. BNYEE has worked with some of the nation’s most prominent scholars and pedagogues to help start a Black History Curriculum and Pedagogy Commission to guarantee that NYC public schools have the curriculum and pedagogy necessary to implement by 2010 a K-12 curriculum for the teaching and learning of Black History.
Bloomberg’s Illegal dismantling of the NYC Board
Finally, BNYEE would like to also emphasize that we need to file a lawsuit against the Bloomberg-Klein administration for dismantling the Board of Education. Legally, it is the entity that receives all city, state and federal funds for public education. Mayor Bloomberg has rendered the role of a sitting Board of Education into a symbolic gesture resulting in no public oversight for the 20 billion dollar school budget. In the final analysis, he has the power to spend this money in anyway he pleases without checks and balances a sitting Board would provide....
And Mayor Bloomberg is doing just that while committing education genocide upon Black and Latino children.