NEW YORK—Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is using his position to tell candidates for mayor to continue the education reforms of the past decade.
In a speech made before about 1,100 principals at a conference on Saturday, Chancellor Walcott said that “to dismantle the reforms of the last decade would be a disaster for our children and this city.” He urged prudence to “not turn back the clock on our students.”
Walcott’s comments were particularly focused on the mayoral race, as he said that school system reform had become a topic of debate and discussion. He was careful not to take sides, but rather pointed out the risks he believes the New York City school system is facing.
“I haven’t endorsed anyone in this race, and I don’t plan to … But some of the talk I’ve been hearing lately concerns me,” Walcott told the crowd at Brooklyn Technical High School.
His comments were later made publicly available by his office. “I’ve heard proposals to halt the reforms that have turned this system around. To weaken mayoral control, to turn the clock back to a time when accountability was an empty word.”
He also singled out the teachers’ union as a potential beneficiary of new mayoral rule—at the expense of principals—saying that some mayoral candidates have promised to rescind some of the authority principals have gained in the past decade. He said all of the promised changes “would hurt children in the service of political interests.”
Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City has a different view of the situation.
“The mayor and the chancellor seem to be the only two people I know who believe they have done a good job on education,” stated Mulgrew in an email.
“We are focusing now on rebuilding the New York City school system,” he added. “Parents have been excluded, neighborhoods torn apart by co-locations, schools shuttered, and test scores plummeted.”
Other campaign concerns Walcott raised included discussions about halting the Department of Education’s policy of replacing failing schools with new ones that are more successful and innovative, a sunset provision on teacher evaluations, and ending a mayoral majority on the Panel for Educational Policy. He also expressed concern about candidates advocating for a moratorium on siting charter schools and district schools, a move that he says is only to appease unions.