Syracuse GOP Mayoral Candidate Proposes Mayoral Control of City Schools

Aug 8, 2017

GOP mayoral candidate Laura Lavine presents her education platform at the Westcott Community Center Tuesday.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Syracuse’s Republican mayoral candidate says one of the keys to move the city out of poverty and lagging economic growth is through mayoral control of the school district.  Former superintendent and educator Laura Lavine says she’s prepared lead the turnaround.  

She says the Syracuse City School District’s recent improvement to a 60 percent graduation rate is nothing to celebrate.  The statewide average is 80 percent.  She says children are not learning and graduating as they should, and teachers don’t feel safe…

"This is a crisis.  Having 40 percent either not graduate on time or at all is a disaster for our city.  We can't go on like this.  We need bold, bold action on this, and this is the way to go."

Lavine just retired as superintendent of the Lafayette school district after a 40-year career in education.  She says mayoral control would add transparency and accountability to a system that sees plenty of turnover among superintendents and education commissioners.

"You might have three or four school board members being re-elected every two or three or four years.  Within a short period of time you've lost consistency, you've lost the focus.  With mayoral control, you have on  person who's ultimately responsible for what goes on in the schools."

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Lavine says her plan would include a superintendent, as well as a board appointed by the mayor and approved by the common council.  She says she says some families dissatisfied with city schools are able to move or enroll their children in private schools.  Lavine has seen it in her own neighborhood on the eastern edge of the city. 

"When I was growing up on Dewitt road, there were dozens of children in my neighborhood.  Today, there are very few.  And it's largely because families with school-age children are not choosing to live in the Syracuse School district if they have other options."

But Lavine says many don’t have that choice…and should.

"We have families living in poverty who don't have the option of going to a non-public school or moving, and they're just as concerned about their child's education as families of means.  Right now, they have no choice but to attend underperforming schools."

She cites success in New York City, where mayoral control has resulted in the highest graduation rate in history, lowest dropout rate, and a decrease in crime.