FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2009
MAYOR BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON SCHOOL GOVERNANCE WITH BOROUGH PRESIDENTS, SPEAKER QUINN, AFT PRESIDENT WEINGARTEN, AND CSA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT MCNALLY
The following is the Text of Mayor Bloomberg’s Remarks as Delivered
“Well, good afternoon. Because of the State Senate’s failure to meet a deadline that it has known about for seven years, the historic school governance law enacted in 2002 has lapsed, effective today. I’ll have more to say about the Senate’s reckless behavior later, but first let me review today’s developments. Since the Senate refused to exercise its duties responsibly, we here in the city are moving to protect our children. We’ll do our best to keep them from becoming victims of the Albany train wreck.
“Specifically, to fill the vacuum created by the Senate’s irresponsible inaction, a temporarily reconstituted Board of Education has been named, using the appointment structure that existed under the pre-reform status quo. It will serve until Albany rectifies its inaction and reauthorizes mayoral control, and I want to commend the city’s borough presidents and the Board members for coming today and acting expeditiously to help reconstitute this temporary Board. The board members are Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, appointed by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall; Dr. Delores Fernandez, appointed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.; Carlo Scissura, appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; Jimmy Yan, appointed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; Deputy Borough President Ed Burke, appointed by Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro; and the two mayoral appointees to the board: First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris and Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler. They are showing how to put the interests of our children ahead of narrow political gain – and I think that’s an example that I hope is not lost on Albany.
“The board just concluded an emergency meeting at the Tweed Building. Its first orders of business were to elect Dennis Walcott president of the board, and to reappoint Joel Klein as schools chancellor. I think both of these were very wise actions. Dennis Walcott, as you may know, is a former kindergarten teacher and a nationally recognized education leader. For the past seven and a half years, he has been the Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development. His children, and now his grandson, have or are now attending, public schools. And perhaps his most important qualification is that he has both the experience and the temperament that I think is needed to provide the calm and judicious leadership our schools need at this moment. And Helen I just wanted to thank you for appointing him. I don’t think there’s a better representative of Queens that you could have picked.
“Chancellor Klein’s achievements since his appointment in 2002 I think also speak for themselves. Under his leadership, our schools have become a model for big-city school systems across the nation. And because continuity and stability are so important in the lives of children, the Board of Education also very correctly granted Chancellor Klein authority to direct the operations of the city’s public schools. Let me also add that the old, failed pre-reform governance structure of our school system included locally elected school boards with jurisdiction over lower and middle schools. These elected boards no longer exist, and the existing statute provides for elections for them to be held in 2010.
“The Senate has, through its inactions, handed our City a current governance structure not too dissimilar from the governance structure of the Senate: one made up of multiple and conflicting lines of authority, certainly the formula for gridlock. The temporary School Board has attempted to sidestep the worst consequences, but as prudent as its actions today have been, bear this in mind: these are band-aids, not solutions. Now we all need to keep the pressure on the State Senate to act. So I commend the Board for also passing a resolution urging the Senate to enact, unchanged, the bill already passed by the State Assembly re-establishing mayoral control of New York City’s public schools.
“Governor Paterson is also certainly taking the right course by continuing to call special sessions of the Senate. And I wholeheartedly second his statements that he will continue to call such sessions until Senate members finally discharge their duties responsibly.
“The current paralysis in Albany is not only making New York State government a laughing stock from coast to coast but more importantly blocking much-needed legislation. The Senate’s failure to even take a vote on a school governance bill that is clearly backed by a majority of its members is only one example. The Senate’s refusal to enact the sales tax legislation that New York City needs is also costing us $60 million a month, the equivalent of supporting 600 police officers or supporting all of the Fire Department’s engine and ladder companies’ infrastructure. Continued inaction will jeopardize our ability to pay for essential services, and raises the specter of layoffs. But if the Senate acts quickly to correct its misbehavior, the people of New York, including more than a million of our school children, may still, perhaps, avoid any serious resulting harm.
“Finally, let me remind everyone that our schools are focusing today on what really counts: teaching and learning. Summer school classes began today across the city. They will continue through the first week of August for elementary and middle school students, and through the second week of August for high school students. Many students will be studying our nation’s history and wonderful form of government.
“And it’s not too late for our State leaders to stop dishonoring the institutions and traditions that we try to teach our students to respect. Let me point out that the students that showed up today are students who need some extra help and they’re getting the help that they deserve. Our teachers are working hard, the administration is working hard, classes are going on the way they would have – today at least – the way that they would have if the Senate had acted responsibly.
“Our first priority is to do what’s right for our children and comply with the law, even when I don’t agree with the law. I think we are doing both of these, and I wanted to commend once again our Borough Presidents and those who have chosen to serve to go head and do what’s right. On that note, let me start out with the Borough President with the greatest seniority in elective office, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. The fact that we share a birthday had nothing to do with putting him first.”
Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker (212) 788-2958
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