BY TRONE DOWD
The lack of action in Albany regarding Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control over New York City schools has resulted in what many consider a worst-case scenario for children in the five boroughs.
New York lawmakers left Albany on Wednesday after they were unable to come to an agreement on renewing the mayor’s school control, leaving the fate of thousands of students who attend public schools up in the air ahead of the June 30 deadline.
Over the past few months, the Democrat-controlled state Assembly and the Republican-controlled state Senate have been locked in a stalemate over the future of who controls the city’s schools. Some have argued that mayoral control over city schools, which has been in place for 15 years, has resulted in a more efficient and effective school system. However, Senate Republicans argue that charter schools have taken a back seat during the mayor’s tenure and hope to use the lapse of control as leverage to bring more school choice to the five boroughs.
Both Majority Senate Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) have placed the blame on each other for the lack of action on the issue. Legislation to extend mayoral control for another two years was introduced and passed by the Assembly earlier this year, but on the condition that property tax rates and incentives for cities and counties throughout the state be extended as well. The Senate, on the other hand, introduced legislation to extend mayoral control for five years, but only on the condition that the cap on charter schools be raised considerably by de Blasio—a proposal that has been heavily opposed by teacher unions.
Unless Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes an effort to negotiate a deal during the next week, control over the direction of New York City schools will revert back to local school boards assigned by the mayor. Under this system, borough presidents would each appoint a member of a seven-person board, with the other two members assigned by the mayor.
Unless the two sides come to terms on a deal, state control over schools goes into effect at the start of the new school year in September.
Earlier this week, both city Schools Chancellor Carmina Farina and de Blasio pleaded with leaders in Albany to convince them to reach a deal.
The mayor’s office has not commented on the latest development in this story. But Queens leaders blasted the state’s inability to reach an agreement.
“It’s unacceptable that mayoral control has been handled with such brazen political motivations by the Senate majority—and, frankly, putting public schoolchildren and parents in such situational uncertainty is unconscionable,” said state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “However, we will stay the course, maintain our focus and remain committed to getting a long-term deal done that provides certainty, stability and a foundation of excellence for all of our children.”