Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

Mayor's WINS Address
Sunday, June 27, 1999

Hear the Mayor's Message

A Plan to Reform our Public Schools-and the Commitment to Go Further
by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani

On Wednesday, Chancellor Rudy Crew took aggressive steps to turn around the City's public school system. Chancellor Crew is closing 13 of the lowest-performing schools and he's taking direct control of about 40 others. In those schools, he's offering a raise to every teacher who agrees to work longer hours and commits to staying three years. He's making the schools lengthen their school day, which is a very good thing; require all of their students to go to summer school; reduce class sizes; adopt a strict curriculum, and add five days of teacher training at the start of every school year.

This is a rigorous, serious reform plan, and I'm hopeful that it will create marked improvement in the students in these failing schools. But I must reiterate that in addition to these changes, the Board of Education itself needs to be systemically reformed, it needs to be overhauled. We need to build a school system that puts schools and students first, without all these boards and bureaucracies and educrats to divert resources, energy and attention from the teaching of children in the classroom.

Our school system should be open to more competition-including a parental choice program that gives the parents of poor children in failing schools in one of our 32 community school districts on an experimental basis the same right to choose where to send their child to school that the richest parents in the city enjoy.

Since Milwaukee instituted a city-sponsored school choice program, reading scores have been rising among both public school students and the students using vouchers.

We should be embracing every conceivable responsible reform that is being tried elsewhere to see if it works in New York. We don't have the luxury of waiting. We have to do away with principal tenure so that student performance comes first. Our educational system should not be a jobs protection system first and foremost, but an educational system about the performance of children, and then jobs depend on how well you assist in children performing well, in getting educated better.

We should do away with the Board of Education and all the local school boards. All the boards do is get in the way of educating our children. They don't really help, but they hurt, and the people of the city know that. That's why only two percent of them showed up to vote in the recent community school board elections in May. People know that the system doesn't work, and they're saying to us we need to change it now.

The educational administrative system in New York City is designed specifically to hide failure. It obscures accountability in favor of protecting employees' jobs. The job protection system comes first under the system that we have, and the schools second. Principals' jobs are secure irrespective of their performance. Teachers rarely receive anything but satisfactory performance evaluations. Meanwhile, thousands of children continue to perform well below satisfactory levels.

This has to change. Accountability has to exist at every level. I think that Chancellor Crew's reform plan is a solid step forward and I congratulate him for it. But I know that we have to go much further and entirely change the system so that our schools put student performance not only today but well into the next generation first. This is Rudy Giuliani.

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