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Mayoral control of schools likened to a ‘dictatorship’

Mayoral control of public schools is unnecessary, according to a former Brooklyn congressman.

“I’m opposed to mayoral control,” Major Owens said at a debate last weekend at Union Temple on Eastern Parkway.

“The mayor has control over the budget. The influence that can be exerted by the mayor is already great,” he said. “We don’t need the mayor to micromanage the schools.”

At the debate, critics of mayoral control offered their thoughts on why the system has been ineffective under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. The forum was timely since the state legislature will vote in June to renew or nix the law granting the mayor total control of the public school system.

“There are those that are attempting to just extend this for the mayor for another few years. We are not trying to hear that,” said State Senator Eric Adams.

A common complaint about mayoral control has been that Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Joel Klein routinely make decisions, such as closures of large high schools, without seeking input from parents and community residents.

“They have locked out the elected officials. They have locked out the parents,” Owens said.

“The only common denominator to having successful schools is to have the participation of parents,” Adams said.

“It’s more than control. It’s a dictatorship,” asserted Assemblymember Inez Barron.

David Rogers, a professor at NYU and author of “Mayoral Control of the New York City Schools,” said there are “pros and cons” to the current school governance system.

While Rogers applauded the creation of small schools and increased autonomy for principals, he criticized Bloomberg and the city Department of Education (DOE) for “really bad implementation of major projects, [such as] the bus routes that we know so much about.”

He was referring to the 2007 redesign of school bus routes that left many kids waiting in the bitter cold for buses to pick them up or walking several blocks to the nearest bus stop.

“I support mayoral control in general. I do not support mayoral control as it was implemented in New York City,” Rogers said.

Carla Phillip, a member of the Parent Commission on School Governance and Mayoral Control and a Parent−Teacher Association (PTA) member at I.S. 383 in Bushwick, doesn’t support the DOE”s emphasis on standardized testing.

“Excessive tests and test prep consume class time,” she said. “Schools are not corporations and children are not widgets.”

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