Dear Commons Community,
The New York State Legislature is doing its annual dance between the Democratic-controlled Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate on the issue of mayoral control of the New York City public schools. The Democrats want to extend control while the Republicans use it to goad NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. There is little consideration of the public school students. The New York Times reviews this sad state of affairs in its editorial this morning (see below).
Tired of the Suspense on Mayoral Control of Schools
By the Editorial Board
June 21, 2017
Here we are with yet another remake of a movie that wasn’t particularly watchable the first time around: What price will New York State Senate Republicans exact to extend the mayor’s control over New York City’s public schools — and for how long a stretch? With the Legislature hoping to close shop on Wednesday, and the mayor’s present authority expiring June 30, the question is loaded with urgency and anxiety.
Little about this remake is new, including the delight that Senate Republicans derive from making Mayor Bill de Blasio squirm, especially on the matter of mayoral control. This is their payback for his “sin” of having tried in 2014, newly in office, to win Democratic control of a chamber that has been in Republican hands for nearly all of the last four decades. That a Democrat would like to see other Democrats triumph hardly comes as a shock, but Mr. de Blasio has paid dearly for the effort. Where his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, obtained control over education policy in 2002 with a seven-year mandate, followed by one of six years, this mayor has had to scrape by on one-year extensions. It means an annual replay of a familiar — dare we say tiresome — scenario.
This time around, the price for an extension set by the Senate Republican leader, John Flanagan, is an agreement by Mr. de Blasio to increase the number of charter schools the city will allow. The mayor shows little appetite for such a deal. Neither do Democrats in control of the State Assembly, who have already voted to give him a two-year extension.
This is not a standard left-vs.-right issue. Even conservative critics of Mr. de Blasio say that he, or any mayor, must have control for the sake of stability and efficacy. The merits of tying this to charter schools are hard to discern. Mr. Flanagan could just as readily demand more vegetables in school cafeterias.
A real deadline looms: Wednesday night. That’s when lawmakers hope to head home for the rest of the year. Of course, last-minute bargains are hard-wired into Albany’s DNA. The governor, while rarely saddened to see Mr. de Blasio in a tight spot, may yet ride to the rescue with a compromise (the sort of cinematic flourish that appeals to him) before the existing school-governance law expires. The last thing sensible lawmakers should want is to revert to the old system, with policies set by 32 community school districts whose earlier incarnations were distinguished by cronyism and corruption more than by pedagogical excellence.
This brinkmanship does no one any good. As the central players roll toward the edge, they risk tumbling over. Just as in a movie that wasn’t watchable in the first place.