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New York State Senate Testimony on Mayoral Control

On March 15, the Partnership for New York City submitted the following testimony to the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Education:

Thank you, Chair Liu and members of the committee, for the opportunity to testify on New York City school governance, commonly known as “Mayoral Control”.

The Partnership for New York City represents the city’s business leaders and largest private sector employers. We work together with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to maintain the city’s position as the preeminent global center of commerce, innovation, and economic opportunity.

The business community strongly supports a multi-year extension of Mayoral Control of the New York City public school system. We do not think that the legislature should dilute the authority or accountability of the mayor for appointing the Chancellor of the system, approving its budget, negotiating labor contracts and for the overall performance of students and staff. The current system allows for input of parents and others into educational policies, but decisions are up to the mayor and his or her appointees. Modifying the governance law to confer additional power on parents or any other groups will make it significantly more difficult to hold the mayor accountable.

The governance system that was put in place by state legislative action in 2002 has resulted in demonstrable improvements in educational outcomes in the city. Graduation rates are up and disparities due to income and race are being reduced. Since 2002, when Mayoral Control was first put into place, the public high school graduation rate has increased from 50.8 percent to 72.7 percent overall, and from 38.8 percent to 67.1 percent for black and Hispanic students.  Dropout rates are at historic lows. More students than ever are taking and passing Advanced Placement exams and English test scores are up in every district.

These improvements would not have been possible without the clarity of a system in which the mayor has the clear authority over leadership, labor contracts, management, and budget.

We urge the legislature in the upcoming budget to pass a multi-year extension of the current law and not risk reversion to a dysfunctional governance system.