New York

Quinn suggests strengthening City Council oversight of DOE

PHOTO: Contributed photoCity Council Speaker Christine Quinn's proposed changes to mayoral control are less drastic than Comptroller Bill Thompson's (right). Photo via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/azipaybarah/2415786468/##Azi's Flickr.## Christine Quinn, the speaker of the City Council, is joining the chorus of voices urging state lawmakers to add checks and balances to the mayor's authority over the public schools, but she's proposing a different, slightly softer kind of check. Rather than strengthening the citywide school board, as the teachers union, the comptroller, and several parent groups have suggested, Quinn wants lawmakers to empower the City Council to do stronger oversight of the mayor's school policies. In written testimony Quinn submitted to the state Assembly this week, she describes the arrangement she'd like to see as "municipal" rather than mayoral control. Currently, the Council's ability to check the mayor's education policy extends only "up to the door of a school," she says, citing last year's cell phone brouhaha as evidence. (The city argued that the council's legislation overturning Bloomberg's cell phone ban, which Bloomberg vetoed, but council members over-rode, did not have any effect on the final policy.) Only state lawmakers have the authority to override the mayor's school policy, Quinn argues. But she says that doesn't make sense. "I would never look to weigh in on local education policies in Elmira County, and I don’t think a State legislator from Elmira (no matter how qualified her or she may be) should or wants to be responsible for decisions made about New York City schools," she writes.
New York

The missing SCI reports are notable for what they don't include

PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaThe receptionist at the office of the Special Commissioner of Investigations, Richard Condon. Condon's staff takes up more than an entire floor at its financial district building. I just picked up the 600 pages of reports on wrongdoing and misconduct by city school employees that got sent to Chancellor Joel Klein in 2007 and 2008, but never surfaced publicly. The Post highlighted some of the contents: a Stuyvesant librarian's unauthorized field trips to a Quiz Bowl, a substitute teacher who showed students a movie in which he appeared with a semi-naked woman. But the biggest story is what is not in this file: Any investigations into top or even mid-level Department of Education officials, or any evidence of educators fudging student performance data to make their school look better. The absence is matched by a similar drought among those investigations that have been publicized. The development suggests one of two conclusions. On one hand, the new reports could disprove critics' concerns that growing pressure to produce higher test scores and graduate more students has led some educators to cheat. They could also squash the speculation that the Special Commissioner of Investigations, Richard Condon, somehow managed to cover up looks into higher-profile targets. On the other hand, the cynical conclusion is that high-level misbehavior and cheating are happening with little intervention from an office whose purpose is to investigate schools for misconduct.
New York

Hearings leave lawmakers more turned off to mayoral control