Andrew Cuomo: Mayoral Control Was a ‘Very Controversial’ Issue

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Taking a position that is likely to irk Mayor Bill de Blasio further, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared today that mayoral control of public schools is a “very controversial issue”–and implied a one-year renewal was the best the mayor could get in Albany.

“A lot of people don’t support mayoral control and then a lot of people say, ‘mayoral control, well it depends who the mayor is’ and they supported it under one mayor and they don’t support it now,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters after an unrelated event in Manhattan.

He argued that since the law was going to expire last month and State Senate Republicans were skeptics, he and other advocates for mayoral control were in a “precarious position.”

“This is a very controversial issue and the law expired which means if the legislature did nothing, it reverted to the Board of Education and legislative bodies are very good at doing nothing and it’s a very precarious position when all they have to do is nothing and win,” Mr. Cuomo continued.

“The Senate didn’t want to renew the law and the best we could do is renew it for one year. The mayor’s point is he wanted to renew it permanently, they didn’t want to renew it permanently, but renewal for one year is better than expiration, right?” he asked.

Mr. de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, blasted Mr. Cuomo last week for Albany’s failure to implement much of his agenda, including extending mayoral control of public schools for more than a single year. Originally, Mr. de Blasio had sought to make mayoral control permanent, but Senate Republicans were opposed. Assembly Democrats eventually passed a three-year extension, only to see a final agreement reached that will force Mr. de Blasio to beseech the State Legislature in 2016 to renew his control of public schools.

In wide-ranging interviews a week ago, Mr. de Blasio said it was Mr. Cuomo who worked in tandem with the Senate Republicans to foil him, pointing to their past support for mayoral control under Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent. “I think they were willing to work with us on mayoral control. I think they were willing to work with us on 421a. I think the sticking point was the governor,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Mr. Cuomo’s claim that mayoral control is “very controversial” is likely to elicit eye-rolling, if not outright scorn, in City Hall. As Mr. de Blasio campaigned for a renewal earlier this year, he rolled out a bipartisan coalition of elected officials and business leaders, including conservatives not always aligned with the liberal mayor, to tout the virtues of mayoral control over the alternative: a decentralized Board of Education that Mr. Bloomberg ended in 2002.

Most of the city’s congressional delegation, including Republican Daniel Donovan, backed a renewal of Mr. de Blasio’s control of the public schools. Even former Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a frequent de Blasio critic, voiced his support.

Mr. Cuomo, however, saw things differently.

“Even in the Assembly, there was a strong feeling that they weren’t sure the Board of Education wasn’t better,” he said. “So it was a controversial issue, we compromised, the mayor has control for a year. He doesn’t have control permanently.”