De Blasio Pleads for Renewal of School Oversight as Session Ends

ALBANY (AP) -

A day before state lawmakers go home for the year, Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with them not to leave without renewing the 15-year-old policy of mayoral control of New York City schools.

The policy giving the mayor oversight over city schools was first implemented in 2002 but is set to expire June 30 if the Legislature doesn’t vote to renew it. Republicans in the Senate agree to renew it but want assurances that charter schools won’t be harmed. Democrats in the Assembly refused to discuss charters.

Lawmakers say they may end their session on Wednesday without a deal.

De Blasio urged legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lock themselves in a room until they reach agreement.

“We know from painful experience what happened to our children when we had a system where no one was accountable and no one was in charge,” the mayor said on a conference call with reporters. “We knew there was a tremendous inequality among schools and neighborhoods. Your education actually was determined by your zip code, and there was a tremendous amount of patronage and corruption. That’s what 32 different school districts meant.”

So far, both the Assembly and Senate are holding firm, prompting some to predict they may adjourn Wednesday, possibly returning later this summer to pass an agreement if one emerges.

If mayoral oversight were to lapse, control of city schools would revert to a single board of education and many local districts within the city. De Blasio said Monday that could lead to as much as $1.6 billion in added administrative costs over 10 years.

“We’re not going back to a broken system,” de Blasio said at a rally for mayoral control Monday in New York City. “I say if Albany doesn’t give us back mayoral control, then they should pay the $1.6 billion dollars that it will cost.

Senate Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, has said he supports mayoral control but that it’s imperative to support charter schools as an alternative to traditional public schools. He said 50,000 children are now on charter waiting lists in the city — showing the need for more of the schools.

The number of charters allowed within the city and across the state is set in state law. Currently, there’s room for 23 new charters in the city. Advocates say it takes years to start a charter school and that organizers want assurances they won’t bump up against the cap before beginning the process.

“I still think we have time to reach an agreement,” Flanagan said in response to questions from reporters about whether the Legislature would adjourn Wednesday even without a deal on city schools. “And yes, we’re leaving Wednesday.”