School & District Management

Standoff Continues: Will Mayor Keep Control of New York City’s Schools?

By Denisa R. Superville — June 22, 2017 2 min read
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Come July 1, who will be in charge of running the New York City school district, a system that educates more than 1 million students?

It could be New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio or it could be a central school board, which was disbanded in 2002 but resurrected for 38 days in 2009 when the city faced a similar question.

State lawmakers left Albany, the state capital, at the end of the legislative session late Wednesday without extending the law that would allow de Blasio to continue to oversee the city’s public school system.

The legislature gave control of the district to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002, and awarded him a lengthy renewal when it expired in 2009. Lawmakers have opted to give de Blasio one-year extensions.

While both Republican and Democratic lawmakers support mayoral control, Republicans in the legislature have been at odds with de Blasio, and they have used the mayoral control issue as a bargaining chip, particularly to get concessions around charter schools.

Republican John Flanagan, the state Senate majority leader, has tied renewing mayoral control to lifting the charter schools cap. Democrats don’t want to do that, and de Blasio said in a radio interview recently that the two issues should not be linked. Assembly Democrats have also linked tax measures, which Republicans do not support, to extending the mayoral control law.

Both sides blamed the other for the stalemate as they departed Albany, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Legislators could return to Albany to take action before the law expires at the end of the month. But it’s unclear that that would happen. Flanagan has said that he has no plans to return to Albany during the break.

“I will continue to work to extend mayoral control because I believe very strongly in the accountability it provides,” Flanagan said in a statement, according to Newsday. “But I also believe that the 50,000 boys and girls in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx who are now on waiting lists for a seat inside a charter school deserve the best possible education we can provide. I will never stop fighting for those kids, and will not leave them without a voice.”

Before the mayor got control of the schools, the system was run by small community school boards and a central board of education. Critics say that system was rife with cronyism, corruption, and chaos. But the local school boards had support among some who say the boards gave parents a stronger voice in their schools, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The city has said that it could cost about $1.6 billion over 10 years if mayoral control goes away and the city reverts to the community school boards system.

What happens now? The law lapsed in 2009, during one of Albany’s many leadership squabbles, and, as the New York Times pointed out this week, there was no significant disruption to the system. (This happened during the summer when schools were not in session.)

At the time, the seven-member school board (with two mayoral appointments and one by each of the city’s five borough presidents) was reconstituted. The board convened to reappoint then-chancellor Joel Klein to his post as the schools chief and to urge the legislature to get on with the business of renewing mayoral control. The legislature passed the law before a second meeting could be held and the board was again disbanded.

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Will New York State Lawmakers Extend Mayoral Control of Schools?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.