Changing governance in the New York City public schools: The effects of a state commission and political realities

Robert Andrew Marchi, Fordham University


This study examined the work of the Temporary State Commission on New York City School Governance. This Commission was established by an act of the New York State Legislature in response to a crisis in the governance of the New York City Public Schools late 1980s. The Commission published a voluminous report in April of 1991 following 18 months of meetings, hearings, and extensive research. Five years later, no substantive legislative action had been taken regarding the Commission's recommendations. This study is an attempt to explain the reasons behind this inactivity. A historical case-study methodology was employed. A careful review of relevant documents, interviews with key participants, and personal observations were utilized in order to arrive at a greater understanding of the commission process, legislative process, and the political realities that significantly influenced the Commission's work. Results indicated that the Commission studied was thorough and scholarly in its activities. It was inclusive in membership as well as in its practices. A comprehensive bill resulted from the Commission's efforts, yet it never became law despite the presence of influential legislators on the Commission panel. The study led to several pivotal conclusions. The commission was exemplary in the conduct of its business. The Executive Director of the Commission wielded enormous influence over the Commission's proceedings. The Commission process took a necessarily long period of time to complete its work. The Commission included several radical recommendations that were opposed by powerful interest groups such as the teachers' union. People and politics played a major role in preventing the recommendations from becoming law. Changes in key players and parties in power on the national, state, and local scenes caused philosophical shifts and political infighting over such matters as curriculum, redistricting, budgets, power bases, and alternative plans for governance that have stymied efforts at attaining any meaningful results.

Subject Area

School administration|Public administration

Recommended Citation

Marchi, Robert Andrew, "Changing governance in the New York City public schools: The effects of a state commission and political realities" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9809011.