Photo

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of New York City schools lapses June 30. The length of a potential extension is the source of debate.

Credit
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

ALBANY — Each spring, Mayor Bill de Blasio does a dance with the State Legislature to extend his control of the city’s schools, and each time, the Democrat-led State Assembly happily assents.

But the music tends to stop at the doors of the Republican-led Senate, which has a dismal relationship with Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who worked to end their majority, unsuccessfully, in 2014.

Rather than granting the six or seven years of control that the mayor has asked for, the Senate has in recent years opted to give only a one-year extension. It has been a none-too-subtle rebuke and a marked difference from its approach with Michael R. Bloomberg, Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, who first won control of the city’s schools in 2002 and received a six-year extension in 2009.

Moreover, the Senate — led by John J. Flanagan, Republican of Long Island — has used its leverage over the schools to wrench concessions, including changes in oversight of charter schools, a constituency that has been a prodigious financial backer of Republican campaigns.

This year, the issue of charter schools has again elbowed its way into the debate, with Mr. Flanagan proposing three proposals to extend mayoral control — a legislative buffet of one, two or five years — in exchange for allowing more charters around the state. The Senate planned to take up those bills this week, but none seemed very likely to survive the Assembly, where Speaker Carl E. Heastie, Democrat of the Bronx, has said that such increases in charters are unnecessary and unpalatable to his majority, which receives campaign backing from public school unions.

“God bless them,” Mr. Heastie said when told of the Senate’s plans. “We’re not doing them.”

There are technically two clocks running: Mr. de Blasio’s control lapses June 30, but in reality, a deal would need to come into focus earlier. The legislative session officially ends June 21, after six more scheduled work days, and Mr. Flanagan has made it clear he does not want to stay in Albany later, particularly after the budget season stretched past its deadline in early April.

Photo

John J. Flanagan, Republican leader of the State Senate.

Credit
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Mr. Flanagan, said, “We have given the Assembly a number of options that would extend mayoral control and ensure every child has access to a first-class education.”

The Assembly passed a bill in late May that would give Mr. de Blasio two years of mayoral control, but it coupled the extension with a number of sales tax increases in cities, a maneuver that riled Republicans who felt those taxes should be dealt with separately. “We don’t believe it’s prudent to tie the fate of our students’ education to anything else,” Mr. Reif said.

Elsewhere in the Senate, the Independent Democratic Conference — the breakaway faction that helps the Republicans rule that chamber — has also argued for a two-year extension.

The divergent proposals have raised the specter of the session ending with no deal at all, a situation that alarms Kathryn S. Wylde, chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, which has backed Mr. de Blasio’s call for a robust extension of mayoral control.

“We’re concerned that the Legislature and the governor seem to have gotten most of what they wanted to get done in the budget and that mayoral control fell off the table at that point,” Ms. Wylde said. “And it’s unclear that there’s a commitment on the part of anyone in Albany to ensure that it gets extended this year.”

Whether there was an actual willingness to let mayoral control lapse seemed unclear. The mayor was briefly scheduled to visit Albany on Monday but then canceled the trip, opting to continue conversations by phone with all the interested parties, including Mr. Heastie and Mr. Flanagan. But the mayor stressed that the city should not return to the days of being led by the Board of Education, which he said “were typified by chaos and corruption.”

In Albany, of course, very little happens without the input of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a famed micromanager who has called for a three-year extension but has not exerted any overt influence behind it. (That the governor has not been outspoken about a priority of Mr. de Blasio’s is hardly a surprise considering their rarely on-again, often off-again relationship.)

Likewise, while six days might seem like scant time to make a deal affecting more than one million schoolchildren, it is an eternity in the Capitol.

“We’ve seen this happen before, and guess what? All of the sudden they pass it,” said Martin J. Golden, Republican of Brooklyn, who supports mayoral control. He added, “The powers that be always come together and get something done when it comes to the City of New York.”

Continue reading the main story

Source

NO COMMENTS