Albany Adjourns With No Deal on Mayoral Control of NYC Schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The Assembly and State Senate closed their 2017 session Wednesday night without renewing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s power over the New York City school system—leaving the receivership to expire at the end of this month unless Albany lawmakers reconvene to extend it.

The staring contest between Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan over nmayoral control ended without either side blinking. Flanagan attempted to tie its continuation to lifting the cap on the number of privately-run, publicly-funded charter schools in the five boroughs, even though the current ceiling was not scheduled to come up for reconsideration until 2019.

Heastie, backed by de Blasio and the teachers unions, sought to tie the renewal of the 15-year-old program to the extension of local taxation authority for upstate municipalities largely controlled by Republicans—a play infuriating to Flanagan.

“Unlike the Assembly, our bills dealt wholly with education in the City of New York,” Flanagan, a Long Island politician, said in a statement to the press. “We would have preferred to have everything tied up with a nice neat bow and returned to our districts with nothing at all left on our plate, but that just wasn’t possible under the circumstances.”

The GOP leader maintained that he and his colleagues favor prolonging the program of mayoral control, but insisted they also wanted more charter school opportunities for inner-city students. He appeared to leave open the possibility of returning to the state capital during the break to resolve the matter.

“I will continue to work to extend mayoral control because I believe very strongly in the accountability it provides,” the release reads. “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,” he added.

Heastie marked the end of session with thanks to his colleagues, particularly Upper Manhattan Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell, who will retire this year after more than four decades in Albany. The speaker also signaled he would consider revisiting the capital and the issue over the summer.

He alluded only vaguely to the dispute on social media.

Should the State Legislature fail come together in a special session and pass an extension of mayoral control, the program will lapse at the end of June, and the city will revert to its former model—where schools were largely run by their community school boards. De Blasio spent much of the past week highlighting the unevenness, inefficiency and malfeasance that characterized the old system.

Such a regression occurred in 2009, when the then-Democratic State Senate held up the renewal of the receivership former Mayor Michael Bloomberg obtained in 2002. However, the state ultimately restored mayoral control in a special session.