Wednesday, May 06, 2009

For Whom the School Bell Tolls

It's getting close to final exam time in Albany for Joel Klein, Mike Bloomberg and the current version of mayoral control of the schools-and this time it won't be any gut take home test for these parvenus. As the NY Times reports: "As state legislators begin to review the landmark state law that gave Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg control over the New York City schools, the question seems not to be whether changes will be made, but how significant they will be."

The state legislature isn't gonna act as the mayor's handmaiden on the renewal of the current governing structure: "The committee members repeated now-familiar complaints that parents have been shut out of the school system and that there is not enough oversight of the Department of Education’s budget. They also voiced skepticism over what Mr. Klein has stressed were some of the administration’s greatest accomplishments, like increases in graduation rates and test scores."

But the NY Post sees yesterday's hearing differently-still issuing Klein press releases in the face of mounting legislative opposition; and from the chancellor's perspective, he's got to feel disappointed that the law won't be evaluated by the Post's editorial board: "Unflappable Schools Chancellor Joel Klein skillfully fended off a firestorm of criticism yesterday from Democratic state senators and other foes of mayoral control."

Yet even the Post sees the handwriting on the wall: "The hostile reception for Klein in a tense Senate committee hearing sent a clear signal that the battle over the school-governance law was near the boiling point. The seven-year-old law expires June 30. For more than an hour, Klein counterpunched and landed blows as he touted accountability amid a flurry of questions.
State lawmakers announced plans to weaken City Hall's oversight over the massive school system in the name of increasing parental involvement."

As the Times points out, the system of carte blanche to one man rule, and statistical finagling, isn't going to stand: "One sign of the hurdle Mr. Klein faces could be seen on Tuesday during a rally near the Capitol, where a parent group, the Campaign for Better Schools, lobbied for changes in the law. Nearly a dozen legislators voiced support for the group, who repeatedly chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho — one-man rule has got to go!” Micah Z. Kellner, a Democratic assemblyman who represents the East Side of Manhattan, drew loud cheers when he said, “I think we’re all fed up that the Education Department spends a lot of time and money on spin doctoring what we know are problems.”

And it was nice to see that the senators holding yesterday's hearing agreed with us that there has been a phony straw man argument being advanced by the mayor and his minions-either you're for the current system, or you want to revert back to the bad old days: "Near the end of the hearing, Senator Kevin Parker, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn, urged Mr. Klein to present a viable alternative to the current system. “I object to this false dichotomy of total control and going back to the way things were,” he said. “If you come in here and say the system is perfect, you are going to end up with something that you hate.”

So change is gonna come; and if the mayor's re-elected he had better think long and hard about keeping the tone deaf Klein around. That's because any new system of checks and balances that the legislature devices is going to be some kind of hair shirt that the thin skinned Klein will find much too uncomfortable to wear. It will be amusing to watch, however.