On March 20, 2009, Thomas A. Dunne, Fordham’s vice president for government relations and urban affairs testified before the New York State Assembly Education Committee on behalf of the University in favor of mayoral control of New York City public schools.
“It was not long ago that our schools were a dismal failure and no one wanted to be held accountable,” Dunne told legislators. “New York City public officials abdicated their responsibility and created 32 local school boards. No one person or authority took responsibility for our schools. There was political infighting, confusion, some school boards became patronage mills and as a result the children suffered. Education was no longer a priority.”
The 2002 law that gives the mayor control over public schools in the city expires on June 30, 2009. Last week the Education Committee held a public hearing on whether to renew the law. Chancellor Joel I. Klein testified in favor of mayoral control before the same committee in February.
Among other issues, Dunne said that advocates for educational reform had no place to go to address some of the problems in city schools because the educational bureaucracy at 110 Livingston Street, former headquarters of the New York City Department of Education, was “monumental” and unresponsive. He added that by giving control of public schools to the city’s mayor, the State Assembly had put in place clear accountability and stable leadership.
Six years after mayoral control was put in place, test scores and graduation rates have improved (up by 22 percent since 2002); teacher salaries are higher; and schools are smaller with fewer in-school crimes.
“A key ingredient in improving school performance is accountability,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “Having the ultimate responsibility for the city’s public schools rest with the mayor insures that schools are judged according to a uniform standard, and that education receives the attention and resources it merits. We owe the schoolchildren of New York City at least that much.”