As soon as he was elected NYC mayor in 2003, Michael Bloomberg asked the Legislature to give him full control of the schools. The Legislature, wowed by the billionaire mayor with a reputation for business acumen, gave him what he wanted. He promptly renamed the Board of Education, and turned it into the Department of Education, no longer an independent agency but a branch of city government, like the Fire Department or the Department of Sanitation. It’s previous governing board, called the Board of Education for more than 150 years, was dubbed the Panel on Educational Priorities. The PEP had a majority appointed by the mayor, who served at his pleasure. He could fire them at will. Bloomberg used his power to reorganize the entire school system four times, to close scores of schools, especially large high schools, to open hundreds of small schools and charter schools.

The old Board of Education had a public relations department of three people, whose main job was to write press releases. Under Bloomberg’s control, more than 20 people joined the PR department, and they existed to glorify and exalt every action or decision by the mayor and his chancellor.

This authoritarian structure has remained in place for almost 20 years. No mayor wants to give up control of the schools. The schools continue to be plagued with problems, not surprisingly. Mayoral control solved nothing, despite years of extravagant (and illusory) claims about a “New York City miracle.” Academics wrote books about the glories of mayoral control, now forgotten. The “miracle” faded away.

Parent leaders wrote a demand to restore democratic governance, which appeared in the Gotham Gazette.