Giuliani was a strong proponent of mayoral control. He once suggested, semi-seriously, that the Board of Education’s headquarters be blown up. But he had more pressing issues to address, above all rampant crime and public disorder. And so it wasn’t until Bloomberg took office that mayoral control became achievable. By that time, the dysfunction in city schools had become so profound that it was impossible to make an honest defense of the status quo. Bloomberg campaigned on a mayoral-control plank in 2001. Finally persuaded, Albany decided to hand the school mess to the new mayor in 2003—though not without a caveat. The enabling legislation included a 2009 sunset clause, which subsequently was extended until 2015.
That left Bloomberg plenty of time, and under mayoral control, city schools have made classroom progress. But reform efforts have also suffered from serious operational mistakes. Bloomberg’s legislative staff paid insufficient attention to critical detail when it mattered. And even under the best circumstances, changing the direction of any multibillion-dollar bureaucracy is daunting.
The reform effort also met lots of predictable resistance, with the UFT at the forefront of it. The union marshaled its Albany allies to hamper the mayor’s ability to close failing schools, create local charter schools, and effectively evaluate teachers. Indeed, since assuming the UFT presidency three years ago, Mulgrew has fought an effective guerrilla campaign against true mayoral control. He has used the union’s multimillion-dollar political-action accounts to reinforce its influence in
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