Friday, June 19, 2009

Not Even a Rubber Stamp

Henry Stern once remarked-in reference to the lack of political meaning embodied in the old city council: "...that the New York City Council was less than a rubber stamp because a rubber stamp at least leaves an impression." And now there is the Panel for Educational Policy; as City Room explains: "If there was ever any question over the sway wielded by the Panel for Educational Policy — an enigmatic group of 13 charged with overseeing city education matters and often ridiculed as a rubber stamp — Friday morning appeared to clear things up. The Department of Education, it seems, forgot to get the state-mandated blessing of the panel before it submitted its $22.3 billion budget to the City Council."

But, as the blog points out, this panel has been the sticking point surrounding whether or not to renew the mayoral control regime over the NYC schools: "The meeting came as the panel’s exact duties, and to what extent it should serve as a hedge against the mayor’s authority over city education policy, have become a focal point of the debate in Albany over mayoral control of city schools."

And, as it turned out, the meeting was pro forma-with one exception: "At 10:30 a.m., the full flock of panelists shuffled inside the majestic Tweed Courthouse — a rare feat for a board that boasts an average 75 percent attendance rate for its mayoral appointees. The members emerged 40 minutes later, having given the budget an 11-1 voice of support. But that did not preclude the verbal fisticuffs. “The folks and parents of Manhattan do not expect me to be a rubber stamp,” Mr. Sullivan, the lone dissenter, told the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, who serves as the panel’s chairman. “The borough president didn’t send me here to be a potted plant.”

But clearly the panel was never briefed, and simply had no clue-which of course didn't prevent them from following instructions like the good pupils most of them are: "Another parent member, Dmytro Fedkowskyj of Queens, called for the creation of a budget subcommittee, saying panel members had not mastered enough of the ins and outs to give an informed vote.
“In the ninth inning, it’s very difficult,” Mr. Fedkowskyj said to the nods of other members. “A lot could have been dealt with before, so we’re not all looking like deer in the headlights.”

All of which underscores the fact that there is no credible parental oversight built into the current governance system-the one that is on life support and may expire on June 30th. And maybe that's a good thing.