State lawmakers only have a few weeks to act before Mayor Bill de Blasio will lose his legal authority to run the city's school system. But Republicans in the State Senate are hardly riding in to the mayor's rescue. Zack Fink filed the following report.
This week, the Democratic-controlled Assembly quietly passed a bill extending mayoral control for two years.
The bill was moved quickly through the Ways and Means committee, followed by a floor vote. The language extending mayoral control was also stuffed into a bill extending certain taxes.
"We just put in what we consider straight extenders," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "I have said before it wasn't our inclination to open up and add policy things for what we think are straight extenders, and we look at mayoral control as the same way."
While the bill passed the Assembly, some believe Heastie didn't want to draw too much attention to it because even some of his members aren't wild about the current system.
"We don't need mayoral control," said Assemblyman Charles Barron of Brooklyn. "And don't talk to me about school boards being bad. Every other county has school boards except for New York City."
Over in the Senate, the fate of mayoral control is less certain. Republicans have only granted Mayor Bill de Blasio one-year extensions the last two years. And in an indication that they are headed for that one-year extension again, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan sent a letter to the mayor this week requesting a breakdown for how much money is spent by each school.
The Flanagan letter reads, "A fundamental shortcoming of this administration has been a lack of transparency and response to requests for information. The lack of detail on how New York City spends the almost $9 billion provided to it by the state has been one of the key determining factors in a short term extension of mayoral control."
A spokesperson for the mayor fired back, saying, “Senator Flanagan received the information required by law and more. That means his best argument against mayoral control is about whether the information comes in a spreadsheet or a Word document. It's time for the Senate Republicans to stop playing games."
Meanwhile, Flanagan's partner in the Senate, Jeff Klein of the Independent Democratic Conference, plans to introduce his own bill next week extending mayoral control for three years.
"The Independent Democratic Conference is exploring ways to sort of engage parents more. That's what I hear when I go speak at parent associations, PTAs," Klein said.
After this week, there are only three weeks of session left, which means time is running out. If lawmakers were to leave Albany without renewing mayoral control, it would revert back to the old system governance, which many considered a failure.