Changes in public policy: Schools in New York City
Who should manage our schools?

In 1967 many people recognized that school desegregation did not solve the problems of providing decent education. People also recognized that no effective solution would be found without community control of the schools. Communities succeeded in getting some degree of control in New York City, but their powers were ill-defined and limited. This was compounded by the fact that the Central Board of Education, Teachers' Union, and the Superintendent of Schools all opposed the plan for community involvement. The result was a massive educational crisis in New York City. People in Ocean Hill-Brownsville tried to overcome constant legal obstacles thrown at communities trying to make positive change in their schools.

Ultimately a political resolution was created: the city's 32 community school boards offered decentralized control of schools for nearly 30 years. Recently the authority these boards was stripped away and given to the mayor, thus reversing the effort to give communities control over local schools. The 32 districts have been replaced by 10 regions that have up until now have had little parental or community input. It's only within the last few weeks did the mayor introduce a plan for parental involvement.

The events of the Ocean Hill Brownsville Project remain a flash point in both the Civil Rights Movement and in the history of education in the United States. This assignment will allow us to see current events from a perspective often neglected by New York's tabloid press.

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Step One:

Answer the following questions based on the readings provided:

  1. Why have communities lost local control of their schools? What has happened to the Community School Boards in New York City?

  2. What happened in Chicago after the mayor took control of the schools?
  3. Did the schools improve? Explain.

  4. Considering recent events in Chicago, do you see any simularities with what has happened here in New York City? Can you identify them?

  5. Why would people want to defend New York City's 32 Community School Bards?

  6. What were the things people didn't like about the community school boards?

  7. Imagine if you will a school managed by parents. They picked the teachers, approved the lessons, worked inside the school and had their budgets supplied by the city. Would that school be any different from the school you are attending now? Describe in detail what the differences might be, if any.


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  • What does the term de facto mean?
  • How does government respond to the concerns of people?
  • Are all people represented equally?

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How the laws governing New York schools changed?

What is going to happen to New York City's community school districts?

How New York City is following Chicago in the effort to centralize control over its schools.

Why some parents want the city to keep the school boards

Center for Economic & Social Rights

Historical Timeline of Public Education in the US

A history of public schools in the United States

New York City's new Community Education Councils

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State Standard 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4, National Standards II, III, and V

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  Updated: 1/15/03  
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