Schools Chancellor testifies about school system at education committee hearing

The Schools Chancellor testified Monday at the fourth City Council Education Committee hearing at City Hall.

Over the last week, the education committee has been conducting hearings on subjects ranging from teachers' union contracts to principals' union contracts. After hearing from union leaders last week about how the contracts affect the work being done in schools, the committee got the chance to hear from Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

Klein criticized inflexible labor contracts saying they are to blame for less clean, less safe and less pleasant places in which to work and learn. He says changing the contracts so that teachers can teach and principals can run their schools is an essential step in having first-class schools that New Yorkers want and deserve.

The Department of Education is currently in negotiation with the unions representing teachers, principals and custodians. Klein says current contracts bar teachers from monitoring the hallways, limit custodians on how many light bulbs they can hang and make it difficult to remove incompetent teachers from a school.

During the hearings last week, neither the unions nor the Department of Education were willing to take the blame for the failing school system. Union leaders say their workers are underpaid and overworked.

Members of the City Council Education Committee say the purpose of the hearings is to shed light on ways that work rules and union contracts negatively affect the school system. The goal is to fix these problems before the Department of Education meets with union leaders to re-negotiate contracts.

The final hearing is scheduled for Thursday, November 20 and will be open to the public.

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