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Mayoral control stuck in state Senate limbo

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As Mayor Michael Bloomberg waited for the unruly state Senate to follow the state Assembly’s lead and act on mayoral control, he again touted his educational record and said his leadership has paved the way for the highest graduation rates the city has seen in 22 years.

“After years of near stagnation, our reforms have increased the graduation rate each year since we’ve been in office and I’m so proud to see that graduation rates are up again this year,” Bloomberg said. “This year English and math scores went way up, schools got much safer, and many more of our high school seniors have earned their diplomas.”

Bloomberg has held a series of press conferences in recent months to highlight educational achievements, including Monday’s announcement that the city’s four-year high school graduation rate rose to 60.7 percent in 2008. That number is up 3.6 percentage points from the previous year and represents the largest percentage of graduates in 22 years, Bloomberg said.

The mayor, who is running for a third term, has also cited an increase in math and English test scores and a drop in school crime as proof that his governance of the public schools has been effective, despite accusations from some parents and lawmakers, including state Assemblymen Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) that he and city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein do not heed advise from nor pay attention to concerns of parents or teachers.

Gov. David Paterson called state senators, who have been locked in a power struggle over which party controls the Senate, back to Albany for a special session Tuesday. The lawmakers were supposed to discuss mayoral control, first implemented in 2002 after legislators and residents denounced the now-defunct city Board of Education as a corrupt system.

The Assembly passed a bill 129-18 June 17 that would allow Bloomberg to retain control of city schools for another six years. Many of the Queens representatives green-lighted the bill, but Weprin voted against it and said he wanted a clearer delineation of the role of district superintendents in order to give them the power he said Klein has usurped.

“The bill doesn’t go far enough for superinten­dents,” Weprin said. “I’d like to see the superintendents have real power, and I’m skeptical that’s going to happen.”

A version of the Assembly bill was introduced this week by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and is co-sponsored by Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn). All 30 Republican senators have thrown their weight behind the legislation, though Senate Democratic conference leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) has said he wants to weaken mayoral control or let the law expire, which would happen by the end of June.

Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) has said she wants to retain mayoral control but is hoping to make major tweaks to the law in order to ensure parents have a larger voice.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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