ALBANY—As battle lines get drawn in the debate over mayoral control of public schools, Assemblyman Rory Lancman is advancing a bill that would treat the city’s Department of Education like a city agency.
As it currently exists, Lancman said, the department is “very similar to a public authority,” and his bill would require the oversight mandated under the city charter for things like procurement contracts. While the bill’s memo states explicitly that “this law does not address the fundamental tenets of mayoral control; rather, it is intended to fill a gap in existing law by clarifying oversight of the Department of Education,” Lancman said it’s a different side of the same coin.
“I think you’re going to see matching mayoral control with mayoral accountability,” he said. The bill remains before the education committee.
Lancman predicted Bloomberg and his surrogates will have a rough time dealing with this issue before the legislature, both in the Assembly and the Senate.
“I think that was a little up-ended this week,” Lancman said, referring to a heated hearing. “There were people who were allies of the mayor who were very, very tough with Joel Klein. And in the Assembly, it’s a very, very difficult sell for the mayor to get the current system of mayoral control renewed as is.”
And what about Senate Republicans?
“He got a very hard time,” Lancman said. “I think the mayor will have a hard time getting someone like Frank Padavan or Marty Golden to sign on something that gives him too much power.”
Lancman expressed sentiments similar to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: that the battle will mostly be waged over how much role to give the Panel for Education Policy. That 13-member group replaced the Board of Education, but the majority of its members are appointed by the mayor.
“That is the main issue which the mayor’s going to draw a line in the sand on,” Lancman said. “He will argue that if he has to go through a panel where he doesn’t have a majority, that’s not mayoral control.”