New York, NY — PLACE NYC (Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education) prioritizes accountability, parent voice, and an evidence-based approach to policies and spending to effectively and efficiently drive the highest quality education for all students attending New York City public schools. We need a better system of checks and balances; therefore, our recommendations for changes to mayoral control strike a balance of centralized decision-making and accountability with empowered, local, parent-elected parent councils that are closest to the issues that matter most to their school communities.
As the democratically elected head of the City’s Executive branch, the mayor is rightfully accountable to his constituents for education, just as he is with respect to every other city agency. It would therefore be undemocratic to change the governance structure which would undermine his authority and accountability. We are highly concerned that ending mayoral control, without a thoughtful multi-year plan in place that has been vetted and voted on, will be detrimental to current and future New York City Public School (NYCPS) families. Any sudden end to mayoral control will further erode trust in the democratic process, wreak havoc on the largest city education in the country, and widen the academic achievement gap while spending even more taxpayer money on an already bloated, inefficient, and unaccountable system.
The current structure of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) signed into law in 2022 increased the number of voting members to 23, a figure that is well above good governance standards. The Panel members are appointed as follows – 13 by the mayor, 5 by each Borough President, and 5 parents elected by their borough’s Community Education Council (CEC) Presidents. Although this purportedly gave parents more voice, the current unwieldy size of the PEP instead resulted in new challenges and decreased accountability:
- Increased number of panel members forces the already lengthy meetings to be longer, leaving little time for public comments and, thus discouraging authentic parental voices (online commenting is not permitted).
- The State legislature neglected to include any representation for high school families, who comprise approximately one-third of all NYC public school families.
The procedure by which CECs elect members to the PEP is also critically flawed as they are not directly elected by parents and instead elected by vote from only 32 CEC Presidents. The role of “president” is meant for a council’s internal procedural governance, and does not necessarily represent the diverse views of each council. If a CEC Presidents’ rep on the PEP doesn’t reflect their positions, there is no mechanism for CEC-elected PEP members to be removed, further reducing their accountability to parents.
CECs, in their current form, are largely performative. The only vested power a council has is to approve zone lines proposed by the DOE. The remainder of a council’s input and work is advisory. Because each district is distinct and unique, CECs and each of the Citywide Councils should be given more concrete authority, allowing greater local control of issues that matter to and are best governed by individual school communities.
Changes to the PEP
We propose the following changes to the composition of the PEP:
- Reduce the PEP to 11 members in total (5 parent representatives elected by all NYCPS parents in a direct vote, and 6 representatives appointed by the Mayor);
- Implement a two-year term limit for all non-mayoral members. Two years provide sufficient time for new members to get over the learning curve and contribute with domain expertise and authority.
- Hold parent representative elections and coincide with Citywide and Community Education Councils (CCEC) elections, where parents are already directly voting citywide.
- Continue mayoral appointments for 6 representatives with the following caveats: No fewer than 4 of the 6 appointees should be parents who had a child in the NYCPS system in the past 5 years, with preference to those having served on CCECs or their school’s School Leadership Team (SLT).
- Limit terms for PEP mayoral appointees to 2 years without the ability to be removed except for cause and only after due process. Appointments can be renewed at the discretion of the Mayor.
Additional Power to the PEP
The Mayor should retain his ability to appoint the Chancellor; however, the PEP should have the power to remove a Chancellor by a 2/3 majority vote, after due process. This creates a currently lacking system of checks and balances.
Compensation for PEP Members
PEP members should be compensated for their time as they are authorized to vote on billions of contracts for our school system, make or change critical chancellor regulations that affect families and students, and decide on school utilization. It is unfair to expect them to bring their expertise, engage in their community network, and spend hours on a purely volunteer basis doing this important work and as such deserve pay parity on par with special interest not-for-profit employees whose salaries are often paid with taxpayer grants. Additionally, PEP members should have limited PEP-related expenses (i.e. travel, babysitting, meals) promptly reimbursed.
The PEP should have a budget and a dedicated administrator who serves only the PEP members.
PEP members should be part of the New York State School Boards Association, and similar organizations.
Give More Local Power to CECs
Other than the power to approve zoning proposals, councils’ oversight is purely performative. Community Education Councils must be allowed to meaningfully participate in the selection of Superintendents with involvement in every stage of the hiring process including:
- The veto of a candidate, the ability to add a candidate, and participation in the ultimate selection from the pool of finalists.
- If a Council passes a resolution of “no confidence” in a Superintendent, the Deputy Chancellor responsible for the Superintendent must meet with that Council to determine appropriate remedies within 30 days;
- Once a Council submits its annual Superintendent evaluation, the Superintendent, Council, and NYCPS must meet to discuss the evaluation. The formal NYCPS response must be in writing and specifically address the points raised in the evaluation.
In summary, PLACE NYC supports the duly-elected mayor having centralized authority and a single source of accountability for education with a more streamlined PEP. Increasing the voice and power of parent-elected parents in CECs and the PEP to partner with the mayor will improve and provide much needed oversight and accountability over NYC’s education policy.