in new york city during the 1980s and 1990s, the public education system avoided change and was failing our kids. yet no one was held accountable for those failures. no one was responsible for improving the schools and providing new york city's kids with a chance at success.
fortunately, in 2002 the new york state legislature passed a law granting the mayor control over the new york city school system. that law put accountability back into the system and empowered the mayor to change what was clearly not working.
since 2002, our schools experienced a series of reforms that are starting to show real progress. this year, the mayoral control law sunsets and the state legislature must renew mayoral control in order for the progress to continue. we must make sure that the law is renewed.
i know the value and importance of providing our kids good education opportunities. both as a proud parent of two children in the new york city public school system and as the executive director of the lincoln center institute, the educational cornerstone of lincoln center for the performing arts, i have a front-row seat to the performance of the school system here in new york city. and from two different perspectives.
i have been involved in education at the lincoln center institute for 22 years. in that time, the city has been led by four mayors and 10 schools chancellors, most of whom lasted in that job for only a few years. now, for the first time, under mayoral control, we have been able to concentrate on deep-seated educational issues, an action that requires continuity and its important by-product, accountability.
since mayoral control was enacted, we know for a fact that graduation rates are increasing, schools are safer and kids are learning. this is evidenced every night by my wife and me as we participate in the learning experiences (homework) by our 3rd and 6th grade new york city public school children.
in my own professional experience, mayoral control of the school system has allowed the lincoln center institute to deepen considerably our engagement with new york city public schools. we have done this through the development of our new high school, the high school for arts, imagination, and inquiry, located with the martin luther king jr. school campus, which opened four years ago; our expanded relationship with faculty and education students in 10 schools of education and hundreds of schools in new york city and the metro area; and to use our new york city learning lab as a platform for national and international reach. none of this would have been imaginable without the unique blend of dedication to improving education, accountability and leadership made possible by mayoral control.
as previously mentioned, i have had the opportunity of working with 10 chancellors since 1987, many of whom were fine leaders. but before 2002, each served without a mayor that had the decision-making authority to affect real change in our schools. now we know that the mayor must make education a priority since they are the one being held accountable.
over the years, it has often been said that public education in the united states, especially in its major urban centers, is not rocket science; it is much harder. mayoral control is not a cure-all for the education problems we face in our city, but it has provided a governance structure that makes reform possible-and therefore improvement possible.
mayoral control has been the driving force that has improved the quality of education in our new york city schools. while no system is perfect, we cannot go back to the bad old days of divided authority and buck-passing. it is critical that the state legislature renews mayoral control so that we can continue to keep our education system moving forward.