Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

Mayor's WINS Address
Sunday, May 9, 1999

Hear the Mayor's Message

Challenging the School System to Make Radical Reforms
by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani

New York City is in the midst of a very lively discussion and debate about how to improve our schools. That's a good thing. Education should be at the top of our agenda.

For too long the bureaucrats and edu-crats, the people who supported and defended our schools at all costs and resisted change no matter what, have shut off debate and closed people's minds to potentially valuable reforms.

Now, finally, we seem to be getting somewhere. And that's because people across the City and I are truly challenging the system. We're not settling for hollow rhetoric. We're prodding the system, stirring it up, and demanding real and constructive proposals for dramatic change.

Without our prodding the system, the school system couldn't have come this far in the first place. The schools never would have instituted school based budgeting on their own, and never would have begun to reform special education or dramatically improve reading instruction. The law that holds superintendents accountable to the Chancellor never would have been passed. So our challenge of the system has already yielded substantial results.

Now, I'm challenging the system to go much further. We're finally considering a plan to end the destructive practice of social promotion, which lets students advance from grade to grade even though they fail to progress academically just so they can stay with their peer group.

We're talking about how to eliminate principal tenure-a reform that Chancellor Crew and I support together-so that principals of failing schools can be removed. It's absolutely unconscionable that principals who are failing their students have their jobs protected. It means our school system is really a job protection rather than a system about the education of children. And now we're considering how to implement merit pay for teachers and principals throughout the City.

None of these serious discussions about reform would have come about without my challenging the system to make radical reforms. A bureaucratic monopoly resists reform. It obeys the law of inertia: it won't move unless it's pushed. We have to keep this in mind as we're considering school voucher programs and radical school governance reforms.

Other cities have had the courage to change the structure of their public school systems. In Chicago, they did away with the board of education. By everyone's account, they are making remarkable progress. Cleveland implemented choice throughout its public school system. Milwaukee went one step further, implementing a program that allows its poorest families to have the same choice in education that the richest parents have.

Those who criticize my reform plans and offer no alternatives should put other serious proposals on the table. That's what New Yorkers deserve. Then we can debate and discuss all the proposals on their merits and embrace a series of reforms that will change the system for the better.

My goal is simple: to give children a better education in the next millenium than we're giving them right now. We want to leave an educational system in place that is headed in the right direction for all the children of the City.

Finally, I want to wish everyone all the mothers a happy Mother's Day. This is a beautiful day to say thank you to the person in your life that has probably meant the most in terms of your development and the things that you've been able to achieve. Enjoy the day and have a wonderful weekend with your families. This is Rudy Giuliani.


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