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Just when city residents were digesting the recently released plans of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to revamp the governance of schools, the New York City Senate Majority issued a statement on Jan. 28 questioning the right of anyone to overhaul the education system without the permission of the State Legislature.
This statement was signed by Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), vice president pro tempore; Sen. John Marchi (R-Staten Island), assistant majority whip; Sen. Guy Velella (R-Bronx), senior assistant majority leader; Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), chairman, cities committee; and Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), chairman, committee on aging.
These senators feel that although reform legislation gives Bloomberg increased responsibility and accountability for the performance of the schools, he does not have the authority to dismantle the system entirely.
The senators say the mayor has to obtain specific approval by the State Legislature to make changes.
There is supposed to be a task force charged with making recommendations to the Legislature by Feb. 15 ... concerning the community school boards and their duties and powers, the best way to facilitate parental involvement in their childrens education, and to maximize meaningful participation by the public in the school system.
The senators also state that Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan are covered jurisdiction under the Federal Voting Rights Act and need preclearance from the United States Department of Justice for any de-facto elimination of representation.
This means that the elimination of elected school board officials cant be done by a wave of the mayors hand. PTAs and parents have contacted the legislators concerning these proposed changes. Parents want to know how far they will have to go to attend meetings concerning their childrens schools.
I know teachers and secretaries who work in school district offices who dont know what will happen after July. Will the district offices be closed? Will they be combined? Who will work in them? Who will go back to schools and classrooms? Where? Which superintendents and supervisors will be in the new offices? People wonder if they should retire.
These changes are supposed to improve the education system. Thirty percent to 40 percent of 10th- through 12th-grade students drop out because they realize they will not be pushed ahead any more and will have to pass each subject as well as harder academic city and state tests.
The problem is that many students come from dysfunctional families, and foreign students, some of whom are illegal aliens, cant integrate into our modern academic and technologically advanced society.
Some children suffer from asthma due to pollution from airplanes and auto emissions. Others are homeless, perhaps in families with four or five children, and some stay home to take care of younger siblings, work in family stores or take part-time jobs.
Some children are hyper due to a steady diet of sugar and fatty foods mixed with violent TV shows and wild music. They cant do the concentrated academic work required of them due to these problems.
The mayor and the chancellor have recently announced two initiatives. They want children to use phonics to learn to read, and they say a uniform curriculum would benefit failing schools so if children move in the middle of a term they would not be studying entirely different subject matter.
These steps would strip teachers of their initiative and creativity; however, they would provide stability for thousands of inexperienced teachers who enter the system each year. Having a daily uniform lesson where everyone teaches the same lesson every hour of every day has been used in the Chancellors District for a while, but I have not read of how well it is working.
One has to decide how much change there should be in the school system. Should the high-performing Districts 25 and 26 be changed? How much of society should and can be changed to improve education? Many parents dont care about what their children are doing in school. How can one get these parents involved?
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK
Education is definitely on the national, state and local agenda.
BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK
Educating the 30 percent to 40 percent of failing students and preparing the bright students for the interdependent technologically advanced world will take a lot of money, which is not being provided. We get mandates but not enough money.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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