Civic leaders are stepping down from a commission studying mayoral control of the city's public schools in response to concerns that the panel's creator was too critical of the Bloomberg administration's school policies.
Of nine original members, four have left the commission, including the appointed chairman, the business leader Stephen Berger, and the vice chairman, Herman Badillo, a former congressman. A former New York City schools chancellor who is now president of St. Francis College in Brooklyn, Frank Macchiarola, and Kathryn Wylde, the president and CEO of a coalition of business leaders, the Partnership for New York City, also have stepped down.
The state law that shuttered the old Board of Education and handed control of the public schools to the mayor alone will expire when Mayor Bloomberg leaves office in 2009. The approaching deadline is opening up a debate in Albany over whether to scrap the law, change it, or renew it as is. The city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, appointed the commission following a request from state lawmakers.
Concern among its members began soon after the commission was announced in September — by chance the same week New York City won a national award for progress in urban school systems, the Broad Prize. Following a pattern of criticizing Mr. Bloomberg's school policies, Ms. Gotbaum put out a statement belittling the award.
Messrs. Berger, Badillo, and Macchiarola all resigned from the commission following her remarks, sources said.
Ms. Wylde said she left the commission later, after her work on a commission on traffic congestion began to pose a conflict. But she said Ms. Gotbaum's public criticisms also played a role.
"It's easy to confuse disagreement with the current administration and Department of Education with opposition to mayoral control," Ms. Wylde said. "I realized that because the commission is convened by an elected official who frequently is in a position where she feels she has to speak out on current education issues, that it's difficult to separate the work of her commission from her advocacy positions."
Ms. Wylde said she also felt uncomfortable serving on a commission headed by such an outspoken critic, as she often works closely with the Bloomberg administration on school programs.
Sources said Ms. Gotbaum's office plans to announce replacement appointments this week, including three new spots for parents. Activists have complained that parents have not played a large enough role in determining school policies, and many vocal parents have opposed changes Mr. Bloomberg has brought.
A spokesman for Ms. Gotbaum said her office had no comment on the departures. Messrs. Berger, Badillo, and Macchiarola did not answer requests for comment.