EIGHT REAL REASONS WHY BILL THOMPSON MUST BE ELECTED MAYOR TO SAVE THE SOUL OF NEW YORK AND WHY WE CANNOT AFFORD BLOOMBERG EVER AGAIN
By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
It’s time to dispense with the lies swirling around Bill Thompson’s tenure as president of the Board of Education. It’s apparent that those who made that pathetic TV commercial in reference to Bill Thompson and the New York Education system did not do their homework, or they would never have made such inane statements. That said, it remains an absolute necessity to clarify the current controversy around the Board of Education, which in 1994, was under the thumb of Rudy Giuliani.
The recent changes engendered under the Bloomberg Administration were as much a result of the debacle Giuliani had made of it at the time, as to any alleged mismanagement on Bill Thompson‘s part. Much verbiage has been given to Bill Thompson’s role during that time. So let’s look at it. Given the circumstances, Thompson did an admirable job. New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, the same Giuliani who launched a near police attack against former Mayor David Dinkins, launched an offensive against then Chancellor Ramon Cortines, who was hired under the previous administration. Rumor had it that he didn’t like Cortines because he was Latino, and gay.
Whatever the reason, he launched such an offensive against him that Cortines was eventually forced to step down. He was replaced by Rudy Crew who Thompson reached out to after it was apparent that Giuliani was not going to let him do the job he came to do. Though the Board of Education was supposedly a State Run entity, Giuliani demanded that the education budget be reduced severely. Bill Thompson, stood up to Giuliani, and tried to reach a compromise that would provide the upgrades Cortines had started, but under the dictator of the time, found little support in the City or the State, which was under Pataki (you remember him, don‘t you?).
Despite that fact, Thompson took several risks in trying to ensure that parents and children had the assistance they needed. He was much vilified and sabotaged by the Giuliani regime throughout his tenure. In fact Crew only lasted three years, before he was likewise forced out.
Per the New York Times June 1995: Cortines “challenged educational corruption, beginning a Low-Performing Schools Initiative that led to leadership changes in a number of schools. He made the system more open, starting a program of Annual School Reports for parents to increase their involvement. He made himself accessible, visiting hundreds of schools and holding dozens of community forums. And the product of these efforts? Among them are an increase in math and reading test scores in all 32 local school districts for the first time since at least 1989; thousands more students taking and passing Regents math and science courses; more parent involvement at schools; a renewed sense of movement in the school system.
In a published statement from the Board of Education in 1995: “Sadly, this fine, decent man and tireless worker will now leave us. All Mayors seek control of the Board of Education. It is as recurrent a political act as elections. But the truth is that a separate Board of Education is not some odd entity unique to this city. Separate Boards of Education are a longstanding tradition in American governance. If anything, this Board is uniquely dependent, not independent -- the City controls the size of our overall budget and tells us how much money schools and schoolchildren will get. The Board of Education is a State, not a City, entity. And it should remain separate. It needs to be so in order to keep the influence of electoral politics at a minimum and to avoid pitting the needs of schoolchildren against the budget requirements of sweeping streets or maintaining the parks.”
“To far too great an extent, this city's school system has become a scapegoat, required to address the results of the city's other ills -- poverty, homelessness, the absence of the other programs to assist children and families, etc. Yet despite the growing needs of our students, our city schools have received a disproportionate share of the cuts. And the attacks on the school system and the Chancellor? That they have been unfair, relentless and baseless goes without saying. Likewise, it is obvious to all that they are injuries to our schools and schoolchildren. And they set a terrible example for behavior for our students. Beyond that, however, it seems clear that the attacks have been made and sustained to draw attention away from the most serious issue confronting the school system -- the terrible damage that will be done by the budget cuts.
Simply put, Ray Cortines has been pushed from his job by a City Hall that repudiated even his efforts at improving relations. We will all be poorer for his departure from our school system, and the children will have to pay the terrible price for this error.” Statement from Bill Thompson and members of the Board of Education.
This was excerpted from the DAILY KOS, an online newsletter that points up the underpinnings of the issues that beset the embattled school system under Giuliani and continued under Bloomberg: “The record shows that Giuliani was less effective at solving problems in which such efforts require cooperation with other levels of government, labor unions or communities of color. As a result, public schools got worse during the Giuliani years. Police-community relations got much worse. Much less affordable housing was built, and budgeted for, than under Ed Koch. The poor became a much lower priority than under Mayors Dinkins, Lindsay and Wagner.
In Giuliani's second term, the poor became scapegoats and lab rats for experiments in conservative social policy. Giuliani also governed in a fashion that created problems beneath the surface, for which the bill of reckoning is only now coming due. His borrowing left his successor with a $4.5 billion budget deficit only eighteen months after Rudy sat on a $3 billion surplus. And in a political deal, he closed the city's largest landfill, creating a crisis in garbage disposal and a tremendous budget burden for the sanitation department. There was no room for the Board of Education in the Giuliani administration. The record shows that Thompson's role at the Board of Education would be overshadowed by a New York City's mayor that had higher priorities for the school system than education. Thompson pitched battle with Giuliani during the balance of his incumbency, stepping down to run from Comptroller in 2001. He was viewed by many as the bridge for peace between the Board and Giuliani.”
Per Daily Kos: “Thompson pledges to overhaul curriculum to reduce the focus on standardized testing and create a school-by-school plan to cut class size. He also promises to better involve parents by creating a Parent University to educate families on ensuring children's academic success, similar to what Philadelphia has done.”
BILL THOMPSON COMES FROM A FAMILY OF EDUCATORS AND PUBLIC SERVANTS, GREW UP A COMMUNITY WHERE EDUCATION WAS IMPORTANT AND IMPERATIVE, BILL THOMPSON WILL KEEP HIS PROMISE AND TRANSFORM NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS TO HIGH QUALITY EDUCATION CENTERS, NOT FIEFDOMS THAT ARE SET UP LIKE CITADELS THAT KEEP OUT THE FAMILIES THAT NEED THEM MOST.
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