Skip to main content
Full Menu Close Menu
President's Perspective

A chance to speak out on mayoral control

New York Teacher
UFT President Michael Mulgrew

UFT President Michael Mulgrew

If you support public schools, you need to fund them. That’s as simple as it gets. Last month, we were reminded once again that Mayor Eric Adams doesn’t act in the best interests of our schools. On Nov. 16, the mayor announced the first of three rounds of 5% cuts that he plans to make before June 30.

With the first 5% cut alone, the Department of Education’s budget would be slashed by $1 billion over two years. That dollar figure sounds vast, and it is. But what does that reduction of funding mean for our school communities? It means cuts to per session, after-school programs, Summer Rising, 3-K and pre-K, computer science, community schools, mental health services and more.

These cuts, as well as the two rounds that are still to come, do not inspire confidence that this administration will willingly implement the state’s class-size law. Under the law, all classes must be in compliance with the new class-size caps by 2028.

What makes these budget cuts that much more audacious is that they come at a time when our city’s finances are in good shape. The mayor is trying to blame the asylum-seekers for an imagined fiscal crisis, but a closer look at the numbers shows that city revenues are, in fact, higher than expected, the city’s reserves are at a near-record high and state aid has increased.

For too long, we have been at the whim of whatever agenda the current mayor decides to pursue. The verdict on this form of mayoral control is clear: Mayoral control did not work under former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, and it does not work now.

What our schools need is not always aligned with what the mayor wants. What is the purpose of having a citywide Panel for Educational Policy if a majority of the panelists are mayoral appointees who vote the way the mayor asks them to? Time and time again, New Yorkers show up at PEP meetings to plead for change or action, whether to stop a disruptive charter school co-location or to stop damaging budget cuts. But their pleas fall on deaf ears because under this version of mayoral control, the panel always votes for whatever the mayor wants.

Fortunately, state lawmakers have been sufficiently skeptical of mayoral control that they have required periodic renewals of the law. The current law is due to sunset in June 2024, and the New York State Education Department is holding five public hearings on mayoral control to hear the views of parents, educators and other stakeholders in each borough.

We can make our voices heard at these hearings. So what changes do we want? It’s important that the mayor not have the authority to appoint the majority of the 23 panelists on the Panel for Educational Policy. By changing the composition of the PEP, we can restore democracy in education decision-making. The Panel for Educational Policy should reflect the various constituencies inside our school system. Instead of a rubber stamp, the panel should have to debate and discuss complex issues and arrive at a consensus.

The mayor must also be prevented from supplanting state or federal education dollars. The Adams administration should not be able to take the increased state funds for education and then not invest as much city money in schools as a result.

As we demand meaningful changes to mayoral control as part of any renewal of the law, we must mobilize now to fight these damaging budget cuts and expose their harm to our students.