Albany grants de Blasio two more years of mayoral control of schools

Stephon Johnson | 7/6/2017, 10:27 a.m.
Last Thursday, the New York State Senate finally gave Bill de Blasio what he wanted: mayoral control of schools.
Bill deBlasio

Last Thursday, the New York State Senate finally gave Bill de Blasio what he wanted: mayoral control of schools. The Senate voted 48 to 2 to approve of a bill that includes a two-year extension of the New York City mayor’s control of schools.

Earlier that morning, the New York State Assembly voted 115 to 15 in favor of mayoral control. The proposal includes an extension of local taxes, such as New York City’s personal income tax, and improved pension benefits for some firefighters and cops.

“Working with Governor Cuomo, our successes include a two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools, giving our educational system stability and allowing our school children to thrive,” said State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a statement. “We also passed a three-year extension of local sales taxes and other taxes to give local governments certainty in their planning to provide the essential services we expect.”

Mayor de Blasio said mayoral control of schools is “critical to the futures of more than 1 million kids.”

“In extending our control of the nation’s largest school system, state lawmakers and the governor deserve great credit for protecting the dramatic progress our teachers and principals have made in classrooms across the city,” said de Blasio in a statement. “At the end of the day, Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie and leaders Flanagan, Klein and Stewart-Cousins worked overtime to ensure New York City schools continued on a path of progress. The bipartisan cooperation that prevailed on this issue will have an immediate and lasting effect on the lives of our city’s children.”

Union leaders and educational activists praised the extension of mayoral control, but also took some time to direct some anger at Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference.

“They did the right thing,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew in a statement. “I want to thank Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly—they fought for our students and didn’t get sidetracked by the political games.”

“The Senate Republican-IDC majority was attempting to hijack the legislative process by forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for yet more privately run charter schools in exchange for mayoral control,” read a statement from the Alliance for Quality Education. “Governor Cuomo’s public statements had come down on the side of more charters as well, but the Assembly held the line. In this high-stake game of chicken, first the governor and then the Senate majority blinked.”

New York City Council Member Mark Levine, a former teacher, said that mayoral control of schools is the best way to make any necessary changes in education.

“When I started my career as a high school teacher in the South Bronx, I saw firsthand how the old system left teachers demoralized and families frustrated,” stated Levine. “New Yorkers deserve great schools and a fair education system. Mayoral control empowers New York City to make real changes to strengthen our classrooms, and prioritize students over politics.”