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April 9, 2024
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Releases Report on Mayoral Control of New York City Schools

Report Completes NYSED’s Legislatively Required Review of School Governance Models

Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced today that the New York State Education Department submitted its report on mayoral control of New York City schools to the Governor and Legislature. The report, which includes detailed analyses, findings, and recommendations from the public, examines the New York City public school system before and after the 2002 enactment of mayoral control. Additionally, the report summarizes direct feedback from the public—including students, parents, teachers, administrators, and education experts—on their experiences, assessments, and review of mayoral control. The final report is a robust, nearly 300-page document that reflects the thorough nature and seriousness of this legislatively required project.

Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, "The Board and I thank the Department and Commissioner Rosa for their efforts in producing this noteworthy report. I am confident that the review was conducted with the expected level of objectivity, as entrusted by the Legislature and Governor. I also want to thank the principals and staff who hosted public hearings at their schools throughout the five boroughs for their support and professionalism in holding the required sessions. Additionally, I extend my sincere gratitude to all those who attended in person or submitted written testimony for their valuable contributions."

Commissioner Rosa said, “The report we’re issuing today is a thorough, research-based presentation of school governance models in New York City and elsewhere that meets the law’s requirements with fidelity. As intended by the legislature, the report provides thoughtful information and testimony concerning mayoral control of schools.”

Pursuant to Chapter 364 of the Laws of 2022, the New York State Education Department was required to conduct a comprehensive review and assessment of New York City’s school governance system. To assist in the development of the report, the Department collaborated with researchers at the CUNY School of Law and WestEd—a leading nationwide nonprofit education research and service organization.

The report includes a project timetable that illustrates the scope of the undertaking. The work began in September 2023, when NYSED entered into a memorandum of understanding with the CUNY School of Law to conduct the study of school governance models and began outreach to the New York City Mayor’s Office and New York City Department of Education to share information, timeline of deliverables, and legislative responsibilities. NYSED worked with the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Education to identify and schedule locations for the public hearings and procured vendors to coordinate livestreaming, translation services, and audio and video services for each hearing. Utilizing 100 staff volunteers from the New York State Education Department, NYSED held five public hearings over the course of two months and contracted with WestEd to conduct an analysis of all oral and written testimonies. In March 2024, the Department compiled and finalized the report that was submitted to the Governor and Legislature today.

The final report is based on a study of school governance models and best practices, including comparative examples of mayoral control governance structures in other large cities across the United States and feedback submitted to NYSED directly from the public. All members of the public were invited to provide feedback in person at one of five hearings or via written testimony. NYSED received oral and written testimony from hundreds of individuals and organizations.

The in-depth report highlights ten conclusions and four recommendations that emerged from the review of the public hearing testimony, written comments, and the synthesis of the extensive literature on school governance. The four recommendations provided by the public for next steps are:

  • Empower student, parent, and teacher expertise in the New York City school system.
  • Create more avenues for meaningful deliberation and shared decision-making.
  • Ensure more accountability and transparency with an introduction of stronger principles of checks and balances in the governance system.
  • Establish a commission to consider reforms to the New York City Department of Education governance structure.

Specific themes among the synthesis of the extensive literature on school governance and conclusions made by the public for addressing the issue of mayoral control include:

  • The majority of testimony called for reforms with the purpose of creating more avenues for greater representation, community input, and shared decision-making.
  • Compared with similar school systems reviewed in this report, New York City Public School’s governance model grants the most power to the mayor, closely followed by Yonkers.
  • The majority of public school systems in the United States follow an elected board/superintendent structure rather than an appointive system under mayoral control.
  • The majority of public hearing participants said they do not feel heard or included in the New York City public school system’s decision-making processes.
  • Most public hearing participants testified that the centralization of decision-making authority in the mayor and chancellor results in a “one-size-fits-all” approach at the expense of local needs, conditions, and desires.
  • Public hearing testimony and written comments expressed concerns with the lack of checks and balances and transparency in decision-making, given the current PEP structure that gives disproportionate voice and voting to mayoral appointees.
  • Studies and examples suggest that mayoral control can attract resources, increase efficiency, and reduce corruption and bureaucracy. Yet other studies and examples have found persistent issues with inefficiency and the misuse of resources.
  • Hearing participants raised concerns that placing authority over New York City public schools in the hands of a single elected official contributes to a lack of continuity in policies and programs.
  • Research indicates that there is no conclusive relationship between school governance structures and student achievement.
  • There is little evidence that any governance structure has reduced longstanding inequities in educational access and attainment among students.

The New York State Education Department’s report on mayoral control of New York City schools, as required by the legislature, is designed to serve policymakers, researchers, stakeholders, and the public at large as the governance structure of the New York City school system is considered in the future. The full report is available on NYSED's website.