Quietly tucked away in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget is a four-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, which is set to expire in June.
The move drew immediate praise from Mayor Eric Adams, who thanked the governor for “putting students first.”
But state legislators are the ones who would have to vote for any extension, and they may not be so eager to do that right away.
“I don’t foresee it being done in the budget, primarily because this is the first time we have an actual normal governor participating in the process,” said Democratic Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. “So I’m hoping that we get through the budget without the contention that we’ve gotten in the past.”
Mayoral control was first granted to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002. While supporters say it’s a much better alternative to the previous system of locally elected school boards, critics say there currently isn’t enough parental and community input.
Thomas Sheppard sits on a Community Education Council. The councils were established under mayoral control.
“You have 32 Education Councils, and I am the only representative for 32 districts,” Sheppard said. “It puts me in an impossible position most of the time.”
While Bloomberg was granted six- and seven-year extensions by the state legislature, that changed when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office.
The issue was often treated like a political football, with what was then a Republican-controlled state Senate working with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extract concessions from the mayor, often on charter schools, which Democrats in the Assembly opposed.
In both 2016 and 2017, the mayor was granted just a one-year extension, which many viewed as a humiliating slight. The mayor even traveled to Albany in 2016 to plead his case for an extension.
Mayoral control expired briefly in 2009, but was extended before the start of the school year. In 2019, lawmakers left Albany without renewing it. They then had to return for a special session where they extended it until 2022.
“Most of the de Blasio years we only had a one-year extension,” O’Donnell said. “And I was always fascinated why when we had a Republican mayor we gave him several years, and when we had a Democratic mayor we only gave him one.”
The teachers union here in the city supports mayoral control as a concept, just not it’s current iteration. They think it needs to be amended to include more checks and balances.