By Roy Hastick
CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 8, 2009: On June 30th, the law giving Mayoral Control over our city’s public schools is set to expire. Between now and then, the State Legislature in Albany can vote to renew the law, make it weaker, or simply let it end. It is of vital importance that as parents, business leaders and concerned members of the Caribbean community we become engaged in this issue and contact our state representatives to urge them to renew the Mayoral Control law and keep it intact.
As president, CEO and founder of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI), I see daily the importance of graduating students who can read and write on or above grade level, and who can compete against rising global standards.
I know the difference Mayoral Control has made. The issue isn’t Black or White. It is Green. It’s about our children’s ability to get an economic foothold in this country, and being able to compete in an increasingly competitive global society. In order for New York to remain economically competitive, we New Yorkers depend on our schools to produce an educated workforce that is second to none.
Between 2002 and now I have seen the difference made by Mayoral Control. Before the law granting Mayoral Control over our schools was enacted in 2002, many of New York City’s public schools were failing our young people. Reading and math levels were far below the rates of children in other parts of New York State and around the country. Schools were unsafe and classroom overcrowding was rampant. My understanding is that far too many unqualified teachers were teaching outside of their subject areas and graduation rates—the real indicator of whether our children will be able to go on to college or to get jobs—were abysmal.
Since New York City schools have been under Mayoral Control, they have seen double-digit percent increases in test scores, graduation rates, teacher pay, smaller class sizes and crime reduction. Now 100% of New York’s teachers are certified, and to make schools and principals more accountable for student achievement, failing schools have been closed and failing principals have been removed. Further, the increase in teachers’ salaries has made it easier to recruit and retain good teachers.
The reason these successes have been possible is because Mayoral Control has centralized control of school policy, curriculum and budget. Prior to Mayoral Control, 32 individual school boards existed, each doing their own thing. Each district had its own academic standards and curriculum, making it hard for students whose families moved to transition to other schools in other districts. Authority was divided between the Board of Education, community school boards, the chancellor and mayor. When things went wrong—which they did frequently—there was a lot of finger-pointing. There was enough blame to go around. No one was held accountable for incompetent teachers, failing schools and failing students. The result: our children were sacrificed.
They under-performed and couldn’t hold their own against national, much less growing international standards. Now with Mayoral Control the buck stops at the mayor’s desk. In much the same way that the mayor has full authority over the city’s emergency services, including the fire department, police department, and EMS, the mayor now has full authority over the city’s school system. And full responsibility for its failure or success! When something goes wrong, we know who is to be held accountable and where to go to correct the matter.
Between now and June 30th we have a choice: We can renew the mayoral control law intact and ensure that city schools continue to work toward improvement, or, we can return to the bad old days of failure, incompetence and no accountability. Which would you choose?
Let us not sacrifice our children. As immigrant parents and business leaders many of us gave up our home countries and came to the U.S. in search of better jobs and educational opportunities for ourselves and for our children. We must ensure that our children receive the best education possible right here in New York City.
To ensure continued Mayoral Control we must write or call our state assembly members and state senators and urge them to renew the Mayoral Control law intact. We must attend public hearings about the issue and let our voices be heard. Protect the education of our children. Extend Mayoral Control of the New York City public schools.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Roy A. Hastick, Sr., is the president, CEO and founder of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI).