planning ahead

Teacher group looks past 2013 to mayoral control's sunset date

Most education policy wonks in the city are focused on 2013, when New Yorkers will elect a replacement for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But in a new report, a teacher advocacy group suggests that 2015 might be more important.

That’s when mayoral control, the city’s school governance system since 2003, is set to expire. Bloomberg convinced lawmakers to grant him control over the city’s schools early in his tenure, but they built a sunset clause into the law so they would have to reconsider the governance structure every six years.

By the time of the first sunset in 2009, criticism that Bloomberg’s school policies had marginalized communities had grown loud enough to derail a first effort to renew the governance law by the June 30 deadline. Mayoral control technically ended then, although a hastily constituted Board of Education effectively extended it in a nine-minute meeting, its first in six years. But lawmakers reinstated the law, with some tweaks, a month later. It is next due to sunset on June 30, 2015.

Teachers Unite, a group that emphasizes social justice in education, wants to start laying the groundwork for a post-mayoral control future now. In a report issued today, the group says that a survey of 500 teachers found that not only do the vast majority feel unable to influence city policy decisions, 20 percent also said they are unable to influence decisions at their own school. This situation, the report argues, is a trickle-down effect of consolidated power at the top.

Supporters of mayoral control may decry the effectiveness of the former community school boards; however, teachers, parents, and students overwhelmingly favor a democratic structure with meaningful opportunities for participation. The findings indicate that the policy of mayoral control should be allowed to expire no later than 2015, while preparations should immediately begin for orienting New Yorkers to engage in educational leadership at the community level.

A major change that could start happening now, the report argues, is the empowerment of School Leadership Teams. The teams of school staff and parents are supposed to set the agenda and budget for their schools. But Teachers Unite found that nearly 60 percent of the teachers it surveyed said they did not think they could influence their school’s policies through the SLT.

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.