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The state Senate majority conference reached an agreement on school governance with Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday, and lawmakers, including Senate President Pro-temp Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), said the bill they are expected to vote on before school starts in September will give more of a voice to parents and strengthen the role of community superintendents.
Some legislators said the Senate is expected to green-light the bill they say enhances arts education and addresses school safety concerns, although state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has not thrown his support behind the Senate’s bill.
The Assembly passed a bill in June that would allow Bloomberg to retain control of city schools for another six years. Many of the Queens representatives approved the bill, but Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) voted against it and said he wanted a clearer delineation of the role of district superintendents in order to give them a more active role.
Smith and state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Jackson Heights) have praised the new amendments, saying they will help to address concerns of parents and others in the educational community.
“Establishing greater avenues for parental input in our schools will better prepare students to contribute as our next generation of thinkers, workers and leaders,” Smith said. “The more engaged parents are, the better an education our children receive. We now have a system designed to serve their needs and provide the education our children deserve.”
The agreement calls for the creation of parent training centers that would be run by the City University of New York — one will be located at York College in Jamaica — better define the role of superintendents to give them more power, establish an arts advisory committee that would make recommendations and issue annual reports on educational arts policy, and require schools to hold open public meetings on school safety.
Mayoral control was implemented in 2002 and expired in June after the state Senate failed to renew the bill that Bloomberg and city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein say have helped them to boost test scores and graduation rates. Parents and some Queens lawmakers, including Assemblymen Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Weprin, have said Bloomberg and Klein have manipulated the law to usurp power from parents and school administrators.
Monserrate said he was pleased with the Senate’s bill, but he did say he “would have liked to have seen something that requires a chancellor to be an educator.”
“I think that someone who has experience on the ground teaching children and being part of the educational process from the bottom up is incredibly important and immeasurable,” Monserrate said.
Relations between state senators and the Bloomberg administration had grown increasingly tense after lawmakers failed to renew the law, and last Thursday legislators, including Monserrate, railed against Bloomberg on the steps of City Hall for what they said was a failure to negotiate on school governance.
Nearly 300 parents and elected officials protested against Bloomberg’s control of the schools at the rally, led in part by Monserrate and Espada, both of whom triggered the Senate’s month-long hiatus from passing legislation due to a battle over the body’s leadership.
Reporter Jeremy Walsh contributed reporting to this article.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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