October 28, 2016
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Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie Join Legislative Colleagues to Introduce "Better Schools Act"



Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie Join Legislative Colleagues to Introduce “Better Schools Act”






Albany, NY- Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Bronx)  announced the introduction of legislation in both houses of the legislature to make significant improvements to school governance in New York City. The "Better Schools Act" (S.5576) is co-sponsored by Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, Assembly Member Hakeem Jefferies, and Senator Savino, Senator Diaz, Senator Hassel-Thompson, Senator Huntley, Senator Montgomery, Senator Perkins, Senator Sampson and other legislators. The bill addresses the need for more effective oversight of the school system, requires greater transparency, provides more accountability, and enhances involvement for parents and students.




More Effective Oversight




The Better Schools Act reconfigures the Panel for Education Policy (PEP) as a 17-member panel with eight members appointed by the mayor and nine appointed by other elected officials. It requires fixed terms for PEP members with removal only for cause. The Chancellor would be appointed by the mayor and would be an ex-officio, non-voting member.




"The PEP has been a rubber stamp voting with the mayor 97 out of 97 times," said Assemblyman Heastie. "This means there is no real public debate, no incentive to win the support of diverse constituencies and no meaningful checks and balances. Taken together the elements in this bill will greatly improve our schools by ensuring parents, students and taxpayers alike know what is actually going on and have a way to make sure their voices are heard and not ignored.”

Greater Transparency and Accountability




The State is finally investing in New York City schools as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit; but with the economy in crisis future state aid may be reduced so it’s more important than ever for New York City Schools to spend wisely. The Better Schools Act will require greater transparency and accountability by making the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) responsible for evaluating and reporting on financial investments and academic achievement in the New York City schools.




"We are in a financial crisis, and taxpayers should know whether we are getting the best value from our investments in education," said Senator Parker. "Right now, we cannot distinguish facts from ‘spin’ because there is no objective data analysis or accounting on where state education investments are going. The Better Schools Act will empower the IBO to audit the school system to give us objective reporting on where we are succeeding and where we still need to do more to improve our schools."




Parental and Student Involvement




The Better Schools Act creates new opportunities for greater parent and student involvement in the schools and in decision-making that affects students’ education. The Act creates a Parent and Student Training Initiative, gives parents greater input on school closings and restructurings, and restores the offices of the District Superintendents so that parents can get problems solved within their local communities.




Quotes from sponsors of the Better Schools Act:




“In 2001, when I became a New York City Council Member, I was one of the first to support and fight for school Mayoral Control.  I believed then in Mayor Bloomberg’s promise that he would be the ‘educational mayor,’” explained Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. “After seeing the drop-out rate, the lack of parental participation and the dictatorship in which Chancellor Klein runs the Department of Education, I am changing my view and join the choir of those asking for a change in Mayoral control of the education system.”




"Mayoral control in its current form has failed to produce any meaningful improvement in academic achievement, most significantly with respect to the shameful racial gap in graduation rates. The Better Schools Act will provide real change in accountability and transparency in order to produce real results for our children." said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.




"Immigrants are parents too, and as other parents, their voices have been stifled by one-man rule. Through this legislation, however, children and parents will have their educational needs met,” commented Senator Bill Perkins.



“The legislature has the opportunity and the responsibility to improve on the current model of school governance. This bill addresses the need for greater checks and balances through a more independent Panel on Educational Policy and much needed transparency and is designed to ensure that parents, students and our communities have a strong voice in decisions affecting their schools. Our children deserve the best education possible and it is incumbent upon the legislature to craft a system that is geared to their success in the public school system," said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal.

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