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NCLB Outrages

Bill Cala Testifies in Rochester



I would rather live in a messy democracy than in a tidy autocracy.
--Bill Cala


Bill Cala was interim superintendent of Rochester schools before Brizzard took over. Before that, he was longtime superintendent of the Fairport school district. After retirement, Bill and his wife Joanne started Joining Hearts and Hands, which promotes improved educational, health and economic conditions for African orphans and their communities by building schools, sponsoring health clinics, providing secondary scholarships, and nurturing sustainable development initiatives – all to promote dignity, opportunity and hope.

by Bill Cala

It pains me deeply to have to come before you tonight to speak. It has become apparent that the mayor is bulldozing his way to a takeover of the Rochester City Schools irrespective of the facts and the consequences to the children and the citizens of this city. I have provided you with an extensive analysis of mayoral takeovers throughout the country using validated statistics and citing current and germane research studies on this issue. On February 10, 2009 I sent Mayor Duffy an e-mail providing the essence of the paper that I have provided to you. Unfortunately, the mayor was not interested in the facts and never responded. Last weeks phone efforts proved fruitless as well.

While my three minutes will not provide ample time to highlight all of the extant data and research I will focus on New York City as the mayor has raised New York as the nexus for his decision for a hostile takeover. No fewer than a dozen times in the past week Mayor Duffy has cited the success of the NYC takeover as a reason to do the same here.

Here are the irrefutable facts:

New York City has been controlled by the mayor since 2002.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP the only valid measure of student performance in the nation with a 40 year track record.

NYC students have shown no gains in:

Fourth-grade reading

Eighth-grade reading

Eighth-grade math

No gains for African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Whites or lower income Students


Graduation rates:

SED statistics cite NYC with a 52% graduation rate virtually the same as RCSD

Mayor Bloomberg, however, has invented his own mathematical formulas, utilizing “Discharge Codes.” These are labels that he has attached to students who leave the system in order to disguise dropouts. In an April 30th study out of Columbia, the discharge scandal was uncovered:

I quote:

"The findings of this report suggest that the high school discharge system continues to provide a loosely regulated loophole that can be used to inflate graduation rates by pushing at-risk students out of school."

The findings:

The discharge rate went from 17.59% in the year 2000 to 21.1% in 2007

The total number of discharges totals 142,262 kids

Special education discharges went from 17% to 28% in that same time period with a startling 39% discharged in 2005.

The African- American graduation rate for boys is 29%

Enough said about whether mayoral control produces positive academic outcomes. It doesn’t. As in the rest of the country Mayoral control in NYC is a dismal failure and a fraud.

Sunday’s Chicago Tribune headlines tell of the failure of mayoral control in Chicago: Daley School Plan Fails to Make the Grade.

So what about DEMOCRACY?

City residents are already disenfranchised by laws governing big cities in New York State. While suburban citizens are empowered with the right to vote on their district budgets, city residents are not entitled to do so. Mayoral control effectively removes Rochesterians from any meaningful input into the education of its children.

This issue outweighs any consideration relative to academic outcomes and political perceptions of economic feasibility.

Eliminating yet one more avenue to parent and citizen participation in government is an outright assault on democracy. I have cited ample research in my report that demonstrates how citizens, especially minorities have lost their voices in cities where schools are controlled by mayors. Mayor Bloomberg has led the way in denying citizen input of any kind.

Would any type of a takeover like this be suggested in the suburbs? Hardly. There would be a riot.

Why are these takeovers occurring? Because the poor have no voice and urban poor are treated like second-class citizens. It is done because mayors can get away with it. They do it because THEY CAN!

Using the logic of the mayoral takeover scheme, Governor Patterson should be calling for a constitutional amendment to eliminate the New York State Legislature and take control of the entire state by himself. I know this has a certain appeal given the reputation of our legislature, but the absurdity of eliminating voters’ voices is autocracy not democracy.

While I have made many suggestions in my paper that can improve the lot of urban children in my report without stomping on the rights of Rochester’s citizens, I recommend that the mayor and city council put the issue on the ballot for the voters to decide whether or not the mayor should take control of the schools and include in the ballot resolution ACCOUNTABILITY. The mayor would be RECALLED if there is no progress in five years. That’s exactly the same accountability the president and secretary of education are calling for when they are insisting that principals and teachers be fired if schools don’t perform. This vote should take place after vigorous debate and BEFORE our legislators go to Albany with a mayoral control bill in hand.

Mayor Duffy has cast opponents as QUOTE “a small group of self-interested adults and cheap politics to sway public opinion UNQUOTE. I hardly call this a desire to debate the issues. Metro Justice, Parents Groups and the Anti-Racism Coalition and the mayor. Who’s the politician in the group??

The takeover is not about kids and student performance. It’s about power, control and money.

My plea to you tonight is to do everything within your power to preserve the voices of the poor and reject a mayoral control.

I would rather live in a messy democracy than in a tidy autocracy.

Thank you for your time and patience.

— Bill Cala
testimony to the Rochester City Council
2010-01-19


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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