Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Passing the Sell Date

The drop dead date for mayoral control has passed-and Mike Bloomberg is flailing around trying to pin the guilty tail on anyone else but the man in the mirror. But, as Gerson Borrero points out: "This adulation and clamor has led the billionaire—who thinks he knows best—to strike out against the "evil times" of the old Board of Education. It has led the otherwise self-controlled magnate to rant about how his losing control of schools will lead to the sky falling, school buildings crumbling, and children perishing...It's not so farfetched an idea that, after running over City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the so-called "independent" legislative side of City Hall, in overturning term limits, the Mayor figured that everyone in the state would sing his official city hymn of "Whatever Mike Wants, Mike Gets."

Didn't he see this coming? After all, he's the one blaming the state senate for not acting when, "they had months to go forward on this." Even more culpable, however, than the mayor's political inability to mobilize support for his pet project, is the impact that his meddling had on the current senate impasse. Daily Politics captures the mayor's culpability here in the following comment of Senator Liz Kreuger to a phone call message from Bloomberg: "I told him that based on the analysis of my conference, the only way the city could get the bills it wants passed is for him to encourage, in any way he could, a significant number of Republican senators to come to the chamber," Krueger continued. "It's no secret that my conference is split on the issue, and we need our Republican brethren to get some of his legislation passed. He's frustrated this hasn't been done already, but he didn't say, 'Yeah, you're right.' He said. 'You're the Senate; you guys have to do this."

Those are your boys and girls, Mike. You bought and paid for them, and they treated you, how? Goes to show you, that you simply can't find good help nowadays.

So now we're left in a bit of a muddle-and it's no secret that senate Dems are looking to get concessions from the mayor if any form of mayoral control is re-authorized. As the NY Daily News reports: "Some Democratic senators said they were sending a message to the mayor, who wanted an Assembly version of a mayoral control bill passed with no changes. And while some Democrats publicly called the sales tax hike regressive, one Democrat said the bill was defeated for leverage to extract concessions from Bloomberg on mayoral control."

Is Klein the sacrificial lamb here? But, what's lost in the political wrangling is the question of the efficacy of the current structure-something that gets some good scrutiny in this morning's NY Times. The paper looks at the huge spending increase of the Bloomberg/Klein regime: "They have overseen a large expansion in annual school spending, to $22 billion from $13 billion, with the additional money pumped in from Mr. Bloomberg’s budget and from the state. And that has allowed them to reshape the system to reflect the central elements of the mayor’s philosophy: smaller schools, relentless assessments of progress, and higher salaries for administrators to attract top talent."

Admirable goals and achievements, at least in some cases; but an 80%-and unaccountable-increase in spending has led to, what? Marginal increases in watered down test scores, with absolutely no attention paid in the editorial amen chorus to the flatlining on the more rigorous NAEP tests. Which leads us to ask, is this really earth shattering progress? And will any reversion to a less top down structure be a return to the days of the "old Soviet Union?"

But Mike should avoid inapt political analogies; especially when the governing of NYC resembles Venezuela-right along with a lapdog press-exemplified by the NY Post's incessant editorial and reportage clamoring for the mayor's governing scheme. And the editorial page had the nerve today to call for the abolishing of the Public Advocate's job. Perhaps if the Post and the News were more scrupulous in their oversight of the mayor, there wouldn't be any need for a public advocate at all.

But as far as the schools are concerned, any going forward should included a full fiscal transparency and review-something that the Times reports is included in the Assembly version of the legislation: "The Assembly passed a bill in June that retains the core elements of mayoral control but adds several limits on the mayor’s authority, like curbing his ability to close schools and approve contracts." And it also gives the IBO some ovesight as well.

So let's all take a deep breath at this point. Mike Bloomberg is in the process of purchasing a third term; we don't need to perpetuate any school governing system that lacks proper checks and balances. Not with a mayor who apparently is used to having cart blanche in everything he does.