This is an interesting question: Is the New York Board of Regents now toast? Or is it actually chopped liver? Either way, it doesn’t matter. When Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a commission and assigned the most consequential powers of the Regents to the commission, he neutered the Regents. Peter Goodman, a longtime observer of city and state politics, speculates on this question and leaves little doubt (http://mets2006.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/is-the-governor-firing-the-regents-andor-remaking-an-archaic-dysfunctional-education-policy-making-process-andor-running-for-the-white-house-in-2016-from-ed-in-the-apple/). Governor Cuomo has blatantly taken control of education policy, a function described in the state constitution as belonging to the duly appointed Regents.
Is this good or bad? I personally have never thought it problematic when someone says that a democratic body works slowly. That is the way democratic bodies are supposed to work. That is called checks and balances.. That is why we have not only an executive, but also a bicameral legislature and a judiciary system. Things done quickly and without thorough review are not necessarily better than those that must pass scrutiny.
I have not been a huge fan of the Regents, especially since they decided to go for Race to the Top funding and had the bad fortune to win. Various officials mistakenly thought that the $700 million from the Department of Education would help the state with its debt, but they didn’t realize that every bit of the $700 million had to be spent on Washington’s priorities, not New York State’s. And if New York’s experience is similar to that of other states, we will end up spending $2-3 billion because of having “won” $700 million, paying for the mandates and conditions to which we are bound.
And I am less than impressed by the authoritarian ways of the New York State Education Department. Our young commissioner, John King, who taught in charter schools, is certain that he knows more about how to reform schools and educate students than all the experienced principals and teachers in the state put together. I am too old to admire hubris. Pride goeth before you-know-what. King’s defensive response to Pineapplegate seemed immature, a harbinger of tough times ahead as the state begins imposing more of its mandates on the schools and districts.
But having said all that, I am nonetheless perturbed by the usurpation of the Regents’ authority by a commission composed largely of non-educators. All of them have day jobs. They are busy people. They will hold hearings. Who exactly is being asked to redesign education in New York State and what are their qualifications for doing so?
I dunno. It sometimes seems like education has become a hobby or a parlor game, and anyone can play.