State Leaders Reach Deals on End-of-Session Priorities, Including Extension of Mayoral Control of NYC Schools

It was a late night of voting in Albany after State leaders reached deals on their end-of-session priorities, including a new package of ethics reforms and a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools. Zack Fink filed the following report.

The end of the legislative session is often a busy time in Albany, with last-minute deals taking shape, and this year was no exception.

It took state leaders until Friday night to finally reach deals on all of the outstanding issues, including a one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools. Although that comes with strings attached.

"I don't want to do anything that's going to put an onerous burden on the New York City school district, snd that's where I am," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "So we're not going to do any if the city of New York is uncomfortable and feels like something is onerous, an unfunded mandate."

The city will be forced to disclose its funding formulas for each school. That's never been done before, and while Heastie fought the proposal, and Mayor Bill de Blasio fought it from behind the scenes, eventually, the mayor agreed to accept the changes.

Some believe it was aimed at hurting the mayor politically, who is up for re-election next year.

Senate leaders defended the new disclosure requirements.

"It is eminently reasonable for a parent or a City Council member to be able to say, 'Where are you spending the money? How much are you spending per pupil? In what districts?'" said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. "And let's be very, very clear. The city of New York is unique and special. The rest of the state publicly votes on their school budgets."

"I don't think it's unreasonable if we require the city of New York, as part of mayoral control, to provide transparency," said Jeff Klein, the leader of the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference. "Let's see how much we're spending per school."

State leaders also announced a deal on ethics reform that includes new laws enforcing separations between political campaigns and independent expenditure groups, and disclosure from political consultants and good government groups about who funds them. It also starts the process of enacting a constitutional amendment to take away pensions from lawmakers convicted of a felony.

"We think again, in this particular case, that the problem of Albany, what U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara calls the culture of corruption, is really not addressed by this package," said Blair Horner of NYPIRG.

Although Friday was a late night of voting in Albany, a final deal prevented what had seemed likely only hours earlier, which was that lawmakers would have had to come back here next week. Instead, they head back to their districts until next year.

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