Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shell Game?

In today's NY Daily News, the paper reports that Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver wants to keep the current school governance system in place. Or does he? As the News tells us: "As Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein spent the first day of classes touting their successes since the mayor took control of schools six years ago, Silver told the Daily News Editorial Board that the law is probably safe. "I don't think we're going to scrap the system," Silver said. "There may be some tweaks to the system that are necessary."

Ah, the Devil is indeed in the details. One person's tweak maybe an other's massive dislocation. One thing's for sure-there will be some significant changes and no mayor will be able to act as unilaterally as Mike Bloomberg has been able to do.

Here's what Shelly says: "Silver said that while he is proud to have a part in the "overall product" created by mayoral control, he echoed the concerns of some critics by saying that parents need a "greater voice" in the system. "The parent who has a problem with their child's school, I believe, is relegated now to standing on the steps of City Hall with a placard in order to complain," he said."

And that's not all. As the NY Sun reported yesterday, everything will get more scrutiny this year: "With mayoral control at stake at the end of this year, this year has to be at least as good as last year. That's the story," an aide to Mr. Klein who runs a network of about 500 schools, Eric Nadelstern, said. "It's all about execution and keeping people motivated and focused so the success keeps going."

Welcome to Spin City folks. The real question here is will the overseers get the data needed to make some sound changes to the current system? The mayor and Joel Klein have created a remarkably self contained and massive bureaucratic monument to information control. The walls of this citadel need to be breached so that real knowledge about what works and what doesn't can be gleaned.

Only then can the right changes be made. Getting beyond the mayor's self serving hyperbole is a necessary first step: "While touring schools Tuesday morning, Bloomberg credited mayoral control with everything from lowering crime to getting textbooks into classrooms faster. He also said he believes the Legislature will uphold the law. "The alternative is too devastating to contemplate," he said. "The parents of kids in our public school system will not stand there and watch the future of their children be taken away for political reasons."

It's good to know that politics has been absent for the past six years. Makes us feel a whole lot better about all of this.