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Originally Published: June 12, 2009

Good Government Group calls for efforts to strengthen accountability, transparency and parental participation in public education

Supports no fixed terms for pep members but proposes 90-day notice for removal

Citizens Union today came out in support of continued mayoral control of New York’s City Schools with a number of modifications to improve it.

The good government group believes that mayoral control of New York City schools has resulted in important advances for students in America’s largest public education system and therefore today recommended that mayoral control be continued with modifications to further improve transparency, accountability and participation.

Citizens Union specifically supports the mayor continuing to appoint both the chancellor and a majority of members of a smaller eleven-member Panel for Educational Policy (PEP). While Citizens Union also believes that changes should be made to strengthen the PEP as a more consequential policy advisory board, Citizens Union does not support fixed terms for members of PEP, but proposes that the appointing elected officials be required to give ninety-day notice for removal of their respective appointees. CU also proposes having the Chancellor serve only as an ex-officio member of the PEP and the PEP choose its own chair.

Two further proposals require a thirty day review period for all major policy proposals put before the PEP, including mandatory public hearings and testimony to ensure sufficient public comment on policy initiatives or changes, and a requirement that a majority of PEP members be parents of public school students.

To address the longstanding lack of public confidence concerning education data such as performance results, Citizens Union proposes that both the Independent Budget Office (IBO) and the city comptroller have full access to the Department of Education’s (DoE) data in order to allow for independent audits of its performance and budgetary information.

Mindful that students and parents have a relationship to the educational system that is unlike any other relationship New Yorkers have with their city government and that parents have an understandably strong interest in the education of their children because of the investment both they and the city are making in this area, Citizens Union recommends strengthening the involvement of parents in certain decisions affecting their children’s education. Specifically, Citizens Union supports the proposal for a Uniform Parental Engagement Procedure (UPEP) as creating a mechanism carried out by the Borough Presidents to providing training and support for parental engagement.

Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union, said, “CU believes that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have brought welcomed change and needed stability, direction, funding, and progress to the overall education of the city’s 1.1 million public school students, though such progress has not benefited all students. Citizens Union further believes that the mayor and the chancellor should continue to have significant authority for the leadership and management of the school system and the education of New York’s children, but we are suggesting a number of ways to improve mayoral control and address the consensus criticisms that exist with the current form of mayoral control. We believe that our proposed constructive adjustments will preserve the strength of mayoral control, forge new common ground in support of mayoral control, and help our schools further improve in the best interests of those they exist to serve: our children.”

DeNora Getachew, CU’s Director of Public Policy and Legislative Counsel, said, “PEP needs to be changed and strengthened into a more effective body than it currently is, because the school system would benefit from it being a more consequential policy and advisory board. This is why we are recommending a smaller mayoral majority, a ninety day notice of removal, and a defined public comment period on major policy proposals, without undermining the mayor’s ability to formulate policy and management of the school system.”

Rachael Fauss, CU’s Program Associate, said, “Citizens Union believes that the City’s education system must work to the benefit of all students and ensure that parents can be engaged and supported in their children’s education. This requires that parents have all of the tools and information necessary to navigate the system and be able to voice their concerns and have their issues addressed. It is for this reason that we recommend strengthening support for the School Leadership Teams and the Community Education Councils. Specifically, we support, better training and an improved structural process for parental engagement along the lines of new Uniform Parental Engagement Procedure (UPEP).”

Citizens Union came to its position after a year-long review conducted by Citizens Union (CU) and Citizens Union Foundation’s (CUF) Boards of Directors, Citizens Union’s Municipal Affairs Committee (MAC) and Citizens Union staff. The review involved hearing from and meeting with numerous groups and individuals who gave the organization their perspectives on, and experiences with, mayoral control and education issues related to New York City public schools.

The report and detailed list of specific recommendations are available online.

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