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Mayoral control bill over NYC schools in limbo...

Maryam Abdul-Aleem | 4/12/2011, 4:35 p.m.

The stalemate in Albany over the last three weeks between the NY State Senate Republicans and Democrats has caused the "people business" to go unattended, including the destiny of mayoral control, which is set to expire next Tuesday.

Educators, parents, grassroots and not-for-profit organizations have been tirelessly advocating either for or against the 2002 state law that gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg control of one million NYC public school students. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced proposals to the 2002 state law that would allow the appointment of two public school parents on the Panel for Educational Policy and public hearings before the closing of schools, among other minor "tweaks."

But, overall, the legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Assembly would still keep the majority of appointments and control in the mayor's hands for another six years.

If lawmakers do not vote on mayoral control, the bill would revert to the old Board of Education that governed NYC's students with a seven-member board, two appointees by the mayor and 32 elected school boards.

Gov. David Paterson, on June 24, called NY State Senators into the chamber for a special session, but the Senate is not obligated to vote on any legislation.

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) has been vocal against the mayor having complete control on the Panel for Educational Policy. Sen. Sampson has even, reportedly, said that he would be willing to let the law expire before signing the bill that the Assembly passed.

"We immediately passed the first five bills the governor sent to the Senate, have just received nine more we will act on, and will continue to pass legislation as it is received from the executive chamber," said Sen. Johnson's office. Sen. Sampson wants fixed term limits on appointees and a greater role for parents. He reportedly introduced that version of the 2002 state law on Tuesday. "I have no problem giving the mayor control, but there needs to be term limits and parental involvement," Sampson told the Amsterdam News in an e-mail message.

However, Geoffrey Canada, the founder of Harlem Children's Zone, on the issue of term limits, told Amsterdam News in a telephone interview that "a system like that is bound to fail for our children" because there were incidences when appointees "didn't do what the agreements were when they took the position." Canada said if term limits were attached to the bill that the Assembly passed, there would be the "same kind of gridlock that we had before" with the Board of Education. One person, the mayor, should have control of New York City public school students, Canada said.

"If they do a lousy job, vote them out of office," but at least with mayoral control there is someone to hold accountable for the failure or success of the city's students.

But opponents of mayoral control say that it is not that easy because the lives and education of their children will suffer the consequences of one person's educational policies. Tamika Mallory,the national executive director of the National Action Network, said, "As presented, if the mayor has complete control over our schools, our success will be limited. No one can govern their children and the schools better than the parents and our collective communities. While the mayor should be involved, parents need to play a more prominent role in their children's education."

Mallory concluded, "The unfortunate deadlock in Albany is an outrage, not only because citizens believe their tax dollars are being spent in vain, but also because it affects the everyday lives of people."