Giuliani Lends Gravitas for De Blasio Control of Schools

NEW YORK -

Rudy Giuliani is lending his stardom to his successor’s bid for full control over the New York City school system, despite Bill de Blasio’s frequent attacks on him and his legacy.

The two unlikely allies joined forces in a letter, obtained by the Daily News, to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to extend mayoral control over education permanently in their budget, which is due on March 31.

De Blasio, a Democrat, and Giuliani, a Republican, noted that their frequent disagreements only underscore the importance of the request.

“It is no secret that the two of us disagree on a great many things — but we both know that mayoral control of the public school system ensures direct accountability and is absolutely essential for the future progress and development of New York City schools,” de Blasio and Giuliani wrote.

Wresting control over the city’s schools from the state has long been a goal for mayors. During his eight years in office, Giuliani pushed for it but never succeeded. His successor, Michael Bloomberg, won control and it has continued under de Blasio.

The issue mainly affects public schools, but bears notably on yeshivos as well. The deal last year easing terms for parents of students in special education, for example, was only possible because of de Blasio’s control.

Groups such as Agudath Israel of America support de Blasio’s quest for jurisdiction over education matters, if only for the fact that it allows them a single address to take their concerns.

The 2002 deal granting Bloomberg control is set to expire in June. Cuomo has signaled that he would renew it for another seven years. That would tide de Blasio over his time in office, even if he is reelected to a second term.

However, de Blasio is asking for it to be made permanent.

“Proposals that would limit mayoral control will only take us backward to a time of blurred lines of accountability,” the letter said. “Graduation rates, college readiness rates, and test scores are showing signs of improvement, and the success of our children demands that we move forward.”

Giuliani has a cordial relationship with the governor dating to when he endorsed his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in 1994. While both Cuomo and de Blasio profess to be friends, the mayor’s muscular advocacy for progressive causes has distanced the two.

Additionally, the Senate’s Republican majority has held up de Blasio as the symbol for what is wrong with Democratic policies. But they have a good relationship with Giuliani.

De Blasio, who this month referred to a Giuliani remark as “a new low — even for him,” said he specifically sought out Giuliani to prove a point.

“We did this very explicitly to show that two people who often disagree are unified when it comes to mayoral control. … Some things transcend partisanship,” the mayor said.

Any Senate bill would go through the New York City education subcommittee, a panel headed by Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans. Felder and de Blasio jointly represented Boro Park in the council until term-limited out in 2009.

Felder noted that de Blasio had opposed mayoral control when Bloomberg was in office.

“The mayor vociferously opposed mayoral control when Bloomberg was mayor,” Felder said. “Now, he has seen the light and wants mayoral control. This is a policy issue that demands public hearings and a very deliberative process — the same that de Blasio demanded very few years ago.”

It is unclear how Giuliani’s intervention would affect the bill’s chances. Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif noted that after 13 years of local control there are still 91 failing schools.

“We’re going to take a good, hard look at this.” Reif said. “Ultimately we will act in the best interest of students and their families, not what is politically expedient for Mayor de Blasio.”