From the start of his tenure 17 months ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to be more inclusive of parents, teachers and community members in his education policy decisions. Whether he’s followed through on that pledge is up for debate, but voters still want him to give up some power over the school system, according to a new poll.
By a 2-1 margin, 969 registered voters in a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday said they opposed allowing the mayor to “retain complete control over public schools.” Sixty percent said other elected officials should have more of a say.
The results could pose a challenge for de Blasio, who climbed to power by criticizing mayoral control under his predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg as too undemocratic and vowed to reform the process. De Blasio wants the state legislature to establish permanent mayoral control before it expires June 30.
Under the current mayoral control law, the mayor appoints eight of 13 members on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, which approves co-location plans, school closures, and billions of dollars worth of contracts. While the Department of Education has added some changes to the public feedback process and worked more closely with schools facing co-locations, some critics say it’s hard to tell the difference between mayoral control under de Blasio and Bloomberg.
“He made a lot of promises that he has not followed through on at all,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and board member of NYC Kids PAC, a parent organization that endorsed de Blasio in the 2013 Democratic primary.
Voters’ support for mayoral control has never been total. Six years ago, when mayoral control was last up for renewal, 60 percent said they thought Bloomberg should give up control of schools — even as more than half approved of Bloomberg’s handling of schools.
De Blasio didn’t fare well on other parts of this month’s poll, which also asked voters for their thoughts on his overall job performance and his handling of schools. His approval ratings on both questions fell to among their lowest levels since he took office.
There was a clear racial divide, however. Though his ratings fell with black and Hispanic voters, they still approved of de Blasio by a 68-19 and 48-32 percent margin, respectively, compared to 34-56 percent for white voters. Chancellor Carmen Farina also earned a 32 percent job approval rating, her lowest ever.
The poll asked voters to weigh in some other hot-button education issues. Thirty-nine percent of voters said the city should have more charter schools, while 17 percent say there should be fewer and 35 percent said the number school stay the same.
Voters were also divided on whether students should be allowed to refuse to take standardized tests, as 47 percent said they should be allowed to opt out, while 49 percent said they should not.