Testimony by Derrell Bradford of NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now to the New York State Senate Education Committee on the Extension of Mayoral Control of the New York City School System.
Chairman Marcellino and Distinguished Members of the Senate Education Committee:
I’m here today to offer my support for an extension of mayoral control of New York City’s public school system. I think most involved in the work of improving the education of all children in the city, regardless of their zip code or school type, know that in concept, a school system led by a strong and visionary mayor is a vast improvement over the fragmented and unwieldy system of governance it replaced.
But my endorsement comes with a caveat. Mayoral control is only as good as the ability of the mayor to implement it. It’s only as visionary as a mayor’s vision. And it’s only as child-focused as a mayor’s willingness to empower families to choose the best school for their children. Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio’s tenure as the leader of the city’s school system has left much wanting.
So in pondering the extension of mayoral control, it’s important for the legislature to consider adding guardrails meant to allow great schools to grow and flourish in the city regardless of the mayor’s inclination or ability.
The renewal should ensure this mayor, or any mayor, cannot supersede state law, and very specifically in this instance, the state’s charter law. The mayor does not have the ability to regulate charters but he has, on occasion and in pernicious fashion, worked to do just this. I need not recount it here, but the members of this body can certainly recall the war on charter schools he launched during his first year. And there is, unfortunately, no reason to believe his inclination to undo the great work that has been done in the city’s charters has changed.
It’s worth noting that the city’s charter school sector and the mayor’s office have not always had an adversarial relationship. I don’t believe I am going too far when I offer for my colleagues in the sector that the preferred relationship is one not of acrimony, but of mutual sympathy and growth. Indeed, an environment where the best schools, regardless of governance, can be scaled and replicated and parents have more choices as a result is what we desire.
But until that day, the nuggets of choice that are gold for so many families in New York City have to be protected, and the best way to do that is in doing just this: enforce state law and do not allow the mayor to circumvent it.
As this committee reviews the mayor’s performance as the leader of New York City schools, I hope one thing will be front and center: how to ensure that all public schools are given the opportunity to thrive. School choice—the ability to choose the best public school for your child, regardless of the name above the door—lifts up families and communities across New York City. If the mayor will not support that notion, you should not support an extension of mayoral control. Please keep the freedom of our parents to choose, and their children to learn, in mind as you consider extending mayoral control in New York City.
NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now