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Bringing a Public Voice to the School Governance Debate: The Campaign for Better Schools and Mayoral Control in New York City (Year Two Report)

In this two-year study, Research for Action (RFA), working in collaboration with Jeffrey Henig of Teachers College, assessed the formation and development of a coalition of organizing and advocacy groups, funded by the Donors’ Education Collaborative (DEC), and their impact on the debate about the mayoral control of schools in New York City (NYC). An interdisciplinary research team used multiple methods of data collection and analysis, including an examination of public opinion polls; a media scan; observations and interviews with a broad range of actors. The resulting report builds on a growing body of research on civic capacity and community organizing for education reform, which examines the work of groups across sectors to identify a shared agenda and mobilize the human and financial resources necessary to move their agenda forward. The DEC-funded coalition launched its Campaign for Better Schools in November 2008. Throughout the next year, the Campaign faced several unexpected challenges on a fast-paced political playing field at both city and state levels. RFA’s research analyzes the campaign’s platform development process; their strategies in response to tensions and obstacles they encountered, both internal and external to the coalition; their ‘wins’ in the new mayoral control legislation passed in 2009; and the possible long-term effects of the Campaign and the mayoral control debate on the NYC educational landscape. Finally, RFA assessed the impact of DEC funding on the coalition and on the debate over school governance in NYC.