New York City

Lawmakers called back to Albany to reconsider mayoral control of NYC schools

Return to Board of Education system may be avoided

June 27, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Legislators back to Albany on Wednesday for an extraordinary legislative session to reconsider a bill which would extend mayoral control of New York City schools for one year. AP photo by Mary Altaffer
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The state Legislature will be reconvened Wednesday in Albany for an extraordinary legislative session to reconsider a bill which would extend mayoral control of New York City schools for one year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the session in a proclamation on Tuesday.

The state Senate failed to approve the extension of mayoral control by the end of its formal session last Wednesday, triggering the possible return of the old Board of Education system, with its 32 different community school boards. That system, often dysfunctional and sometimes corrupt, was overturned by the Bloomberg administration more than a decade ago.

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If the governor’s bill is not approved, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of city schools — along with ambitious plans to systematically extend programs like universal pre-K, advanced placement courses and Computer Science for All — expires this Friday.

Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, said in a statement on Tuesday that the governor had discussed the extraordinary session with legislative leaders.

A spokesperson for the mayor told Gotham Gazette that “Our team has been in constant contact with the governor’s team and the legislative leader teams. We are optimistic a deal can get done. We’re working around the clock to help that process with whatever we can.”

While the state Assembly approved mayoral control months ago, Senate Republicans linked the extension to an expansion of the number of charter schools that can open in New York City. There was no mention of linking the bill to charter school expansion or anything else in the governor’s official proclamation.

Cuomo also said in his proclamation that lawmakers would consider “such other subjects as I may recommend.” These subjects were not described by the governor.

The New York Times speculates, however, that Cuomo may be sweetening the pot with a separate bill that would allow some police officers, firefighters and members of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, including corrections officers, to qualify for enhanced accidental disability pension benefits.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden tried unsuccessfully to get that legislation passed earlier this year.

Reverting to the old system of school boards on such short notice would disrupt the nation’s largest school system, with 1.1 million students.

“It’s been 15 years since school boards existed,” Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, a former teacher for the deaf and a Special Education advocate for years, told the Brooklyn Eagle last week. “That would be going back to something that people had a huge problem with. It would completely destabilize the system; there’s no time to plan.”

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