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War Of Words Continues Over School Control

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Lawmakers gathered on the steps of City Hall Sunday to urge the mayor to negotiate, not attack, the State Senate over the mayoral control of city schools law, which expired during the more than four-week stalemate.

Since then, governance of city schools has reverted back to the Board of Education.

More than a half-dozen state senators were on hand for Sunday's rally, where they argued that the mayor should not have complete control the city's public school system.

"Mayor Michael Bloomberg has manipulated, Mayor Bloomberg has taken the facts and the truth and made them fit his story and it's not about quality education," charged State Senator Carl Kruger.

They said Mayor Michael Bloomberg should be willing to compromise because they are not backing down.

"Let's negotiate," said State Senator Martin Dilan. "Let's not have the mayor play plantation politics whereby the mayor gets to decide what he wants and all we are supposed to do is follow suit."

The Democrats say they will not sign off a new law extending the mayor control over city schools unless it has provisions allowing for more parental involvement in schools, more transparency and checks and balances on the mayor's power.

"We believe it would be meshuganah not to include parents in the education of our children," State Senator Hiram Monserrate, a Democrat from Queens, said, reusing a Yiddish term used by Bloomberg. "As opposed to loosely using the word meshuganah, we would also say we don't need a yenta on the other side of this argument and this debate. Raising the issues that he has raised in the manner he has raised them is unfortunate."

"Enough with the fighting, enough with the finger pointing," said State Conference Leader John Sampson, a Democrat representing Brooklyn. "The mayor has to understand that the passion we are exhibiting is passion for the love of our school children. It's not about political rhetoric. At this point, we are call to communicate, negotiate, because it's our responsibility as representatives of the 1.1 million children in the city schools to understand; it's not about mayoral control, it's called parental involvement."

The mayor insisted the Democrats reneged on a promise to extend the law. On Sunday, he released a letter signed by Senate President Malcolm Smith and Conference Leader John Sampson on July 9th that assured Senator Dan Squadron that they would bring the bill on school governance to a vote.

Sampson says they did not break their promise.

"When you look at the letter, it talks about working towards an amendment, towards the ultimate goal of the Assembly's legislation," said Sampson. "But it went from an amendment to an MOU (memorandum of understanding) and, as Senator Adams said, 'we don't do MOUs, we do legislation,' and that's what's its all about."

In response to today's press conference, the mayor's spokesman released a statement saying:

"The bill they pledged to put to a vote is the produce of seven months of public input and careful legislative deliberation. The circumstances have not changed to require further negotiations, and we do not stand in the way of their agreement.

On Friday, the mayor slammed the State Senate for breaking for the summer without renewing the law. He says it is being held up by a small group of people.

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