who should rule the schools

With 8 weeks until mayoral control deadline, a bill is proposed

Assemblyman James Brennan
Assemblyman James Brennan

A state lawmaker who has vocally opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s control of city schools announced today that he plans to introduce a bill laying out an alternative governing structure for school system. Assemblyman James Brennan wants New York City’s school governance structure to look more like that of Boston, where mayoral control faces built-in “checks and balances,” his office announced today.

Under Brennan’s proposal, which the Post first reported last week, the city’s Board of Education, currently known as the Panel for Educational Policy, would retain its balance of seven mayoral appointees and one appointee each from the five borough presidents. But the mayor’s appointees would have to come from a pool of 14 names nominated by a 13-person panel representing a wide range of constituencies, including parents, teachers, administrators, the business community, and others. The mayor would also be allowed to appoint members of the nominating committee.

The complicated nominating system resembles the one proposed in March by Comptroller William Thompson, who is running for mayor.

Brennan’s bill is likely to end up being largely symbolic, even as the deadline for state lawmakers to decide the fate of mayoral control is now just eight weeks away, according to Peter Goodman, a longtime United Federation of Teachers member who worked on the UFT’s proposal for revamping mayoral control. Goodman said that because the bill won’t have come from the chair of the Assembly’s education committee, Catherine Nolan, it is unlikely to attract serious attention from legislators.

“If it doesn’t have the chairman’s name on it, then it’s not in play,” Goodman said, adding that the decision about mayoral control will probably come down to the wire, after other difficult issues including a MTA rescue plan are resolved. Portions of Brennan’s bill might be used in whatever proposal lawmakers finally do put forth, Goodman predicted.

Brennan also released two new studies today, one that revisits his earlier claim that Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have taken credit for test score gains that are unfairly inflated, and one that attacks the wastefulness of no-bid contracts and administrative reorganizations.

Under Brennan’s school governance proposal, the Board of Education would be in charge of approving departmental contracts. In a report released alongside the bill announcement, Brennan said that the DOE has wasted taxpayer money as it the size of its no-bid contracts ballooned from $15 million in 2001 to $300 million in 2008-2009. “Vetting multi-million dollar no-bid contracts is simply good government,” he said in a statement.

CORRECTION: This story originally said that the New York Civil Liberties Union has endorsed Brennan’s bill. It has not.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.