The supporters of the city's private schools learned last week that the free market is a double-edged sword when it comes to education. The free market was great when it provided the intellectual rationale for giving parents vouchers that would allow them to shop for the school of their choice for their children. But, when New York City Schools Chancellor Harold Levy attempted to lure teachers away from the private schools with higher salaries, the parochial schools cried "unfair."
Church officials and others charged that Levy was attempting to recruit teachers from private schools by offering higher salaries. Levy denies that he was targeting the parochial schools when he changed the rules raising the salary cap for teachers transferring to the public school system. In the past, teachers at private schools with more than seven years experience, had to transfer at the public school five-year rate of $39,000. Certified teachers can now transfer in at the top rate of $49,000.
Suppose Levy is trying to recruit certified teachers from the city's parochial and private schools. So what? That's what the free market is all about. The private schools have the option of raising salaries to remain competitive. In addition, these schools retain certain advantages. In general they attract batter students from better families, whereas the experience of teaching in the public school classroom can be particularly grueling.
Chancellor Levy and the Board of Education are facing a crisis. With less than one month before the school doors open in September, the public school system is short 300 teachers. A judge has ruled that Levy cannot fill empty slots with uncertified teachers, even if they are working towards certification.
Time is running out. In part, these positions will be filled by professionals who are currently in a boot camp that will prepare them for teaching and will expedite the certification process. These men and women will bring a wealth of experience and maturity to the classroom. But there is not enough of them.
The bottom line is that, if the city is to compete with suburban schools, then salaries for public school teachers must be raised. It's time that we begin paying our teachers like the professionals they are.
Fifteen months from now, New Yorkers will be asked to vote for a new City Council. Almost all existing council members will not be able to run for re-election because of term limits. This should be a very exciting time in this city with the democratic process moving into high gear.
Unfortunately Queens Democratic Party boss Tom Manton has no intention of allowing the people of Queens to participate in the electoral process. Manton and the boys in the back room are preparing to hijack the City Council election, just as they have nearly every other vote. The machine tightly controls who gets to run on the Democratic Party line and, since the Republican Party is virtually nonexistent, that means that Manton will handpick the Queens delegation on the next City Council.
The people of Queens must not let that happen. Manton and his henchman must not be allowed to control who will run for the Democratic Party. It is long passed time for the people of Queens to the throw these guys out and open the political process for all registered voters.
This can only happen when elected officials currently representing Queens find the courage to denounce the machine that has made a mockery of the democratic process in this borough.
©2000 Community News Group
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