By Andrew J. Hawkins
Mayor Michael Bloomberg may not be running for reelection next year, but he will undoubtedly be playing a starring role in the race to replace him. The six Democrats expected to run next year are all supportive of the mayor’s efforts to take control of the school system, but differ with Bloomberg on most everything else—whether it’s school closures, co-locations with charter schools, relations with the teachers union or standardized test scores.
So if next year’s race is for the right to be the next education mayor, how do the candidates stack up? What are their qualifications, their accomplishments and their thoughts on some of the more controversial policies of the Bloomberg administration? David Bloomfield, a professor of education at CUNY and an expert on education policy in New York, was kind enough to offer his analysis of each candidate’s qualifications.
For their part, the Department of Education says that educational outcomes have never been better—and graduation rates and test scores never higher—than under Bloomberg.
“Our reforms have shown positive results for our students,” said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in an interview. “I’m a resident of New York City, and I’ll be paying close attention to what [the candidates] have to say.”
Manhattan Media CEO*
Education: Stuyvesant High School; B.A. in history from Cornell University; M.S., Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Qualifications: Taught journalism and American literature at Stuyvesant High School, 1986–87; briefly a member of the United Federation of Teachers.
Mayoral control: Allon supports mayoral control and charter schools, believing they give parents more options and serve as laboratories for education reform. He takes issue with the mayor’s emphasis on test scores and the administration’s turnaround program, where failing schools are closed and reopened as smaller schools. “We have merely shuffled the seats on the Titanic,” Allon says. If elected, he says he would seek to repair the stormy relationship between City Hall and the teachers union.
Accomplishments: Allon says his proudest accomplishment is helping to create two public high schools: Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the East Side and Frank McCourt High School on the West Side. “I worked with elected leaders in each neighborhood, used my consensus-
building powers, tenacity and political adeptness to get these two schools off the ground,” he says. But as a nonelected official, Allon can claim fewer accomplishments, naturally, than his potential rivals.
Education in 2013: Allon sees education as “the most important issue in the 2013 mayoral race. The rest is commentary.”
Bloomfield’s analysis: “Allon’s accomplishments, such as they are, disproportionately favor white students—Eleanor Roosevelt student enrollment, for example, is over 60 percent white and less than 20 percent black and Latino. Further, he urgently needs to broaden his scope beyond the Upper East and West Sides of Manhattan.”
*Allon is CEO of Manhattan Media, which publishes this paper.
Bill de Blasio
Education: Russell and Peabody elementary schools; Cambridge Rindge & Latin School in Cambridge, Mass.; B.A. from New York University; Master of International Affairs from Columbia University.
Qualifications: School-board member, 1999–2001; member of City Council Education Committee, 2002–2009; Public Advocate, 2009–present.
Mayoral control: De Blasio supports mayoral control, but believes in more parent engagement, though he lacks specifics on what that would look like. “I can say without reservation, as a public school parent, that this administration has shut us out,” he says. “We have got to bring parents to the table and treat them like stakeholders if we hope to make more progress in our schools. Mayoral control shouldn’t mean you go it alone and stop listening.”
Accomplishments: While serving on his local school board, de Blasio helped cap class size at 20 students and redevelop John Jay High School. As a Council member, he supported legislation to improve school playgrounds, make child-care centers more transparent, webcast PTA meetings and keep autistic children with their peers. As public advocate, de Blasio has made the issues of school closures and co-locations with charter schools among his top priorities. He took some credit for helping prevent the closure of P.S. 114 in Canarsie, and helped preserve P.S. 4’s NEST program.
Education in 2013: De Blasio says he will likely emphasize parental engagement and a less data-driven environment at Tweed in his pitch to voters next year. “The department’s narrow focus on a rigid notion of accountability based on high-stakes testing is doing kids a massive disservice. Every student deserves a well-rounded education from early child-care straight through to college and career prep,” he says.
Bloomfield’s analysis: “De Blasio probably has the most grassroots education experience of any prospective candidate, not only as a public school parent but as a past community school-board member. His challenge will be to move from advocacy, where he has had the luxury of throwing darts at mayoral decisions, to operational authority, where he will have to take
action regarding greater rein for his Panel for Educational Policy appointees, hard choices on school closures and co-locations, and applying budgetary discipline to such issues as class size and special education.”
To read the rest of the mayoral candidate profiles (including John Liu and Christine Quinn) visit City & State by clicking here.
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