New York City's problem is its Mayor - not its School Chancellor.
In 2002, the New York State Legislature agreed to Mayoral control of the New York City school system. Under Mayor Bloomberg's predecessor, there was no chance that the New York State Legislature would have permitted such a change in policy. Where Giuliani was considered a loose cannon, racist, and anti-education, Bloomberg entered the arena with a reputation as a successful, moderate businessman, a life-long Democrat who had run as a Republican out of necessity, and a non-racist leader. Of course, Bloomberg turned out to be a fraud. He ran the New York City economy into the worst condition in many generations; used racial discrimination by the police force in its law enforcement, within the fire department, within his own hiring, within his selection of gifted and talented school locations, and in his "Detroit" messaging during his campaign for a third term as Mayor; and thoroughly supported Republicans - even suggesting that Rudy Giuliani should be our state's Governor.
Bloomberg's fraud brought Mayoral control, but we are now eight years into the experiment without seeing real benefits. In fact, with only 28% of Black males graduating from high school in New York City, we are actually destroying lives, limiting our residents to reduced expectations, and undermining generations. Bloomberg is not just an unsuccessful "education Mayor." He is nearly criminal in the way he has damaged the lives of young New Yorkers by refusing to provide high quality education.
Ironically, Upper Manhattan's Congressional representative, Charlie Rangel, is facing censure in the US House for sloppy bookkeeping that everyone agrees did not enrich him and did not hurt anyone. Bloomberg asked for control of the schools and then provided a system where 72% of Black males do not receive even a high school diploma in a world where a college degree is increasingly the minimum requirement for a middle-class life. It would be far more reasonable for Bloomberg to pay a $1 billion fine and serve a few years in prison for how he is affecting the lives of young New Yorkers than it is for the US House to censure war hero Charlie Rangel for poor bookkeeping.
Bloomberg made the creation of new charter schools the centerpiece of his education agenda in New York City, but the charter schools provided a poorer education (on average) than the failing traditional schools that the Mayor has refused to improve. Charter schools have fewer poor children, fewer English language learners, and fewer special needs students, but those advantages aren't translating into better performance for students.
Mayor Bloomberg's favorite charter school used $1.3 million for marketing over two years, when it had only 900 seats to fill - more than $1,000 per seat on marketing when traditional schools only have that amount to spend each year on actual students. It was a cynical effort to have large numbers of parents apply for seats that were unavailable in order to create excuses for establishing larger numbers of charter schools.
Our problem has not been the Department of Education. The problem has been the Mayor. We have MAYORAL control - not Chancelloral control. If we have any hope of improving our city's schools, we need a new mayor.
The Opposition to Cathie Black
There is intense opposition to the appointment of Cathie Black as the next NYC school Chancellor, and some leaders in our city are suggesting that they will seek court orders to block the appointment of Cathie Black as Chancellor. We do not benefit from such an approach.
The Mayor will run the schools the way he chooses, irrespective of the Chancellor. The Mayor was elected in a legitimate election. His performance has been highly disappointing, and voters are expressing "buyers' remorse." But, Bloomberg is the Mayor.
There is value in seeking the resignation of the Mayor, but there is very little value in fighting with the Mayor over his choice for Chancellor. Such a fight will give him an excuse for his failures and undermine the concept of Mayoral control for future Mayors who may have the management talent and values to be effective leaders of our city and of our schools. In the end, the Mayor runs the schools, and the Mayor should select his/her team to run the schools.
Cathie Black's lack of credentials is a symptom of the combination of Mayoral control and the election of a poor leader as Mayor. We need to challenge ourselves to elect better leaders, but we should allow those we elect as Mayor to select an education team without lawsuit delays.
Let us remember Cathie Black as we think about who will lead our city after the 2013 elections. We have made a mistake by permitting Bloomberg to be elected three times. Let us learn from our mistakes.