Monday, August 11, 2008

Bored of Ed

According to the NY Daily News' Adam Lisberg, the mayor's daughter may be enlisted in the effort to keep mayoral control of city schools: "Mayor Bloomberg faces one final battle with Albany to define his political legacy - and his older daughter is preparing for the front lines.
Emma Bloomberg, 29, who worked on her father's first campaign and was later a $1-a-year employee on his staff, is part of the effort to keep control of city schools in the mayor's hands when the law authorizing it expires next summer. Along with her colleagues at the Robin Hood Foundation, the anti-poverty charity where she works, she is trying to figure out how to persuade Albany lawmakers to approve it."

Good luck on this gambit. But, as Lisberg points out, anything Bloomberg isn't likely to be playing all that well in Albany: "The question is, how much should Emma Bloomberg be part of Mayor Bloomberg's thinking on this? She is smart, plugged in, passionate and experienced in being part of a coalition to tackle an improbable task - like getting a novice billionaire elected mayor. She is also a Bloomberg, facing Albany lawmakers who think her father still has no idea how to listen to other people. Under Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), they have been happy to swat down other big mayoral ideas, like a West Side stadium and congestion pricing. "I'm not sure how he's going to get this through," said Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan). "The best people to lobby for this are probably [mayoral contenders] Anthony Weiner, Bill Thompson and Christine Quinn."

Than there's the merits to consider. The Robin Hood folks believe that this continuation of control as one of the single best anti-poverty measure: "We see mayoral accountability as one of the best poverty-fighting mechanisms in Robin Hood's two decades of existence," said Robin Hood head David Saltzman, pointing to better schools and higher graduation rates under Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein."

Can we at least get a second opinion on this incestuous back patting? And, by the way, continued control doesn't have to mean that the current parameters should be considered sacrosanct. And just to underscore the point we have this from yesterday's NY Post: "The city Department of Education paid nearly $10 million to a nonprofit group to train Big Apple teachers to "demystify" their students - but the group trained less than one-fifth of the teachers planned, The Post has learned."

Yet another example of the way in which mayoral control, sans effective oversight, can cause considerable chaos. And the slew of no bid contracts doesn't inspire great confidence in imperial mayoral stewardship: "The organization, All Kinds of Minds, was co-founded by famed Harvard pediatrician Dr. Melvin Levine, who is facing new allegations that he sexually abused young, male patients. The group scored a no-bid contract worth up to $12.5 million in 2004 - one of hundreds of no-bid contracts issued by the DOE since mayoral control of the school system began in fiscal year 2003. According to city-comptroller statistics, the surge of no-bid contracts since then totals $342 million. "We don't know what we're getting for our money," said Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who sparked an ongoing state-comptroller audit of no-bid contracts."

And this is on top of the questions that have been raised about the accuracy of the test regimen at the DOE. Let's not get all twittery over results and performances that may not be as good as they appear from the spin butlers over at the Tweed. We need a proper legislative review of the entire body of work-free from the disinformation and self-serving palaver that the DOE's army of flacks and its chorus of eager Bloomberg sycophants.