By Patrick Donachie
After months of protracted negotiations and uncertainty, the state Legislature voted to extend Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control over the New York City public school system for only one year—the same length of time the city was granted the year before.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) had pushed for a one-year extension, in contrast with Mayor de Blasio, Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wanted the mayor to have a three-year agreement. The Democratic-controlled Assembly had originally passed a three-year extension, but state Sen. Jose Peralta said that Republican lawmakers were resolute that de Blasio only get one year.
“It was kind of a game of chicken who was going to blink first. When it was all said and done, the Republicans didn’t budge,” he said. “I was always in favor of more than one year. I think you need stability.”
The deal, one of several finalized during a flurry of activity in the closing hours of the legislative session, sets up another struggle between de Blasio, Republican state lawmakers and Cuomo over the process of mayoral control, which will now unfold in an election year for the mayor.
“While one-year extensions are no way to treat our children, families or educators, this action is a crucial acknowledgement by state lawmakers that the education progress we have made in New York City could not have happened without our accountable control of the school system,” de Blasio said.
The legislature first passed mayoral control in 2002 for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The decision placed greater accountability for New York’s public schools on the mayor. Both de Blasio and Bloomberg contend that schools improved under the system.
Before mayoral control, autonomous community school districts controlled schools. The Legislature initially granted Bloomberg seven years of control, and passed an extension in 2009.
De Blasio advocated for a seven-year extension in 2015 but was only granted one year. This year’s deal requires school districts to release information on how they allocate funding and will also allow charter schools to switch authorizers more easily.
De Blasio and Republican legislators had a contentious relationship that was further abraded by de Blasio’s support for Democratic upstate candidates during the 2014 election. De Blasio also traveled to Albany for a hearing on mayoral control, but skipped a second session held in New York City to the ire of Republican lawmakers. Peralta, who was critical of the mayor for skipping the hearing, said the final deal was a “shot across the bow” at de Blasio, cautioning him from becoming too heavily involved in upstate politics.
“They said, ‘remember that you are a creature of the state,’” Peralta said, in reference to Republicans’ view of de Blasio, “so don’t get involved in our business.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona