By Patrick Donachie
State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) offered a harsh assessment of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s testimony before the Senate’s education committee in Albany last week in support of an extension ofmayoral control of the city’s public school system.
The critique comes before a second meeting to be held in the city May 19 to determine whether the mayor should have direct accountability for the city’s public schools.
“Too often, the mayor showed a disturbing lack of personal knowledge about the city schools. In addition, he has left too many unanswered questions and failed to provide specifics on many of the issues raised by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Flanagan said in a statement after the testimony. “Until that occurs, I will not entrust this mayor with the awesome responsibility of operating the New York City school system.”
De Blasio testified before the Education Committee to urge them to extend mayoral control for another seven years. Last year, the state Legislature passed a one-year extension of mayoral control after a series of negotiations between de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The one-year extension was considered a defeat for the mayor, and the agreement also boosted the number of charter schools that would be allowed to open in New York City.
A spokesman for the mayor responded to Flangan’s statement by touting de Blasio’s educational record.
“Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña articulated a clear and compelling case for the state to grant a multi-year extension of mayoral control,” he said. “From Pre-K for All, to graduation rates above 70%, the successes of a school system with direct, mayoral accountability cannot be denied,” he said.
Mayoral control was started in 2002 by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an attempt to wrest control away from autonomous superintendents of school district. The move put more accountability for the success of the school system into the mayor’s office, which de Blasio and Bloomberg both assert has been a benefit for the New York public school system.
In his testimony before the Legislature, de Blasio urged representatives not to let mayoral control lapse and risk a reversion to the old model.
“You don’t have people saying let’s go back to the bad old days. You don’t have people saying let’s go back to local school boards who are rife with corruption and inefficient,” de Blasio said after his testimony. “And there’s not some magical third way that anyone has put forward, including in that 3 1/2 hour hearing.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona