New York City

In special session, Albany extends NYC mayoral control of schools for 2 years

De Blasio: Approval ‘allows us to refocus our attention away from the political process and back to classrooms’

June 29, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo by Demetrius Freeman, Mayoral Photography Office
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The New York State Legislature extended mayoral control of the New York City’s public school system for two years in an extraordinary session on Thursday, one day before authority was to revert to the former Board of Education system, with 32 different community school boards.

Lawmakers also voted to name the new Tappan Zee Bridge the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The former governor, father of the current governor, died in 2015.

Senate Republicans had originally insisted on linking the extension to an expansion of the number of charter schools that can open in New York City. This demand was dropped, however.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the extraordinary session after the state Senate failed to extend mayoral control before the formal session ended last week. The state Assembly had passed the extension previously, and did so again early Thursday.

Cuomo tweeted after the legislation was passed by the Senate, “I think it’s fair to say the extraordinary session was extraordinarily productive.”

The Board of Education system, often dysfunctional and sometimes corrupt, was overturned by the Bloomberg administration more than a decade ago.

“Mayoral control of New York City schools is critical to the futures of more than one million kids. Providing a two-year extension gives the system an important measure of stability that’s key to initiatives that have produced record achievement,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Thursday.

“At the end of the day, Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Leaders Flanagan, Klein, and Stewart-Cousins worked overtime to ensure New York City schools continued on a path of progress,” de Blasio said. “The bipartisan cooperation that prevailed on this issue will have an immediate and lasting effect on the lives of our city’s children.”

De Blasio said the extension had the support of officials, education advocates, and business and labor leaders.

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of Partnership for New York City, said in a statement that the state had “transcended political interests to do what is right for the 1.1 million children whose future depends on a good education.”

State Sen. Daniel Squadron was less generous in his praise.

“It’s disappointing Albany let things get down to the wire and tried to play politics with NYC’s schoolchildren, but a two year extension is good news for averting crisis,” he said in a statement.

The special session “continued to fail everyday New Yorkers,” he added, listing the body’s failure to act on civil rights issues, reproductive health laws, criminal justice reforms, healthcare, Immigration transit infrastructure and more.

Had the Legislature failed to extend mayoral control, the city’s school system would have been hugely challenged to prepare for the next school year, and a number of high profile system wide initiatives might have lost momentum.

 “We’d have to start the election process for 32 local school boards – all of which would have the power to name their own superintendents, determine their own budgets,” he added. “A lot of the things that we now are doing in the school system that people believe in — Pre-K for All, Computer Science for All, Advanced Placement courses in every high school — all of that would no longer be universal. It would be at the whim of each of 32 local school boards, ergo I’m sure a lot of folks would lose pre-K.”

“And then unfortunately, the door opening to the kind of corruption we knew with the local school boards, which was legendary,” de Blasio added.

The cost of reconstituting the Board of Education was projected at $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.

“We would demand that Albany pay that if they’re forcing this on us,” de Blasio said last week.


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