Monday, November 22, 2010

Shoddy Paneling Over at State Ed

Just when we were getting a slight glimmer of hope that State Ed Commissioner David Steiner was going to review Cathie Black's qualifications to be NYC schools chancellor with a modicum of unbiased oversight, comes word of those individuals the commissioner has chosen to sit in judgment of the waiver required to allow her to serve. Put charitably, this group of overseers are as capable of serving justice about as much as an all white jury, impaneled at the turn of the last century, is able to determine the guilt of a Klansman in the murder of a Black man in the Deep South.

Let's look at this collection of homers-as the NY Times reports: "New York State’s top education official on Friday named an advisory panel of eight experts, at least half of them with strong connections to the Bloomberg administration, to help him decide whether to approve Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s controversial choice to run the city’s school system. Three panelists selected by David M. Steiner, the state education commissioner, worked as senior officials at the city’s Department of Education. One of those three now works at a foundation that was, for many years, the vehicle for Mr. Bloomberg’s personal charitable donations. A fourth panelist is the head of a museum that has received almost half a million dollars from Mr. Bloomberg in donations since he took office."

Oh, good grief; we might as well stop all of the bantering about this poorly qualified elitist choice for chancellor right now-because the fix is clearly in. Not a single critic of the mayoral miracle in the bunch-which indicates that Steiner doesn't even feel compelled to pretend that his panel is anything, with apologies to the city council, more than a rubber stamp.

We continue to marvel at Bloomberg's power-not even distant oversight officials have the courage to challenge his class biased judgment: "But critics of Ms. Black’s selection, including many opposed to mayoral control in the first place, say that her appointment, which was a closely guarded secret until just minutes before the announcement on Nov. 9, demonstrates that Mr. Bloomberg is tone-deaf to the voices of parents and teachers who want an educator in the top spot."

Tough luck guys. It is now conclusive-as critics had argued-that mayoral control means the absence of any checks and balances except when a chief executive faces the voters (and when it comes to Bloomberg, we see just how much that bounced check is worth). Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is right on target here-but it looks as if the UFT is tanking: "Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat who has long been critical of Mr. Bloomberg’s education policies, questioned the panel’s makeup, saying, “It appears that the deck has been stacked in favor of granting the waiver in a manner that will further undermine public confidence in the appointment of Ms. Black.” But Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers’ union, said, “All of these people have heavy-duty backgrounds and success in education, so obviously David Steiner is clearly looking at this from the educational side, as he should be.”

So much for the union's vaunted power. But some folks are trying to push back against the mayoral juggernaut-as the NY Daily News reports: "The selections set off their own controversy. "I don't think it's appropriate to appoint three individuals who previously worked for the Bloomberg administration," said Panel for Educational Policy member Patrick Sullivan. "We need more independence than that."

Not much chance of that Patrick. NYC governance has been usurped by a monied elite that feels that it knows best what is good for the unwashed masses. The silence from the legislatures in both the city and the state-along with the UFT's complicity-is understandable; they stood down last year when they had their chance to devise a more accountable system. They didn't do it, and Cathie Black is their legacy.