Elected officials in Queens had a lot to say about the bumpy road to renewing mayoral control during an extraordinary session last week in Albany.
Queens’ lawmakers on the different sides of the political divide supported the measure, but some were dubious of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the largest education system in the country, and others were simply displeased by the drawn-out process, which ended up focusing not just on city schools, but a plethora of issues.
The GOP stronghold in the Senate wanted to discuss pensions for the NYPD and the FDNY, before tackling mayoral control.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had set up the short session so that legislators could reach an agreement to entrust the city’s public schools to de Blasio before mayoral control expired June 30.
The Assembly, meeting late into the wee hours of the night after the Senate had adjourned, voted in favor of the extension June 29.
“While our leaders in Albany have every right to be concerned with Mayor de Blasio’s handling of education, the alternative would have had dire consequences for our students,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
City Council Education Committee Chairman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) was heartened by the development.
“I taught in NYC public schools before and after mayoral control was implemented,” said Dromm, a former educator. “There is no doubt in my mind: Mayoral control works. While not perfect, it is a transparent system that benefits students, parents and educators alike. Albany must permanently reject the culture of waste, corruption and mismanagement that we saw under the old Board of Education.”
The talks were initially stalled because many state Senate leaders “not from New York City” decided to expand “their wish list” and use the special meeting to discuss other issues, “like land swaps in the Adirondacks and pensions for firefighters,” Cuomo told a news conference June 29.
Mayoral control was lumped together with other measures in an omnibus bill Cuomo called a “global resolution” that was approved by both houses and backed by the governor.
“It was not the session we premeditated, but it was a lot of good work done in a short period of time,” Cuomo said.
After the Legislature’s regular session two weeks ago, Cuomo said mayoral control “was dead before the bell rang” because the GOP stronghold in the state Senate and the Democratic bastion in the Assembly refused to compromise on caps for charters schools in the city.
The Senate may have conceded on charter schools to resolve other issues, like pensions for firefighters. The details of mayoral control will be released by de Blasio “once its been crystalized in a final form,” according to the mayor.
The Assembly decided “to look at other things that the other parties wanted,” de Blasio said. “The pension I thought was fair and the cost was reasonable.”
State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) expressed frustration that the Assembly took 11 hours before discussing mayoral control, but he was happy that there was a resolution.
“I remain incredibly disappointed in how this process unfolded,” Comrie said. “Going forward, it is imperative that we ensure political considerations never trump policy-making, especially when we are dealing with matters to do with our state’s public schoolchildren.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a third conference in the Senate that shares a majority coalition with the GOP, also welcolmed the compromise on mayoral control.
“Mayoral control of public education policy is essential since it holds City Hall accountable for our schools, unlike the old and ineffective school board system,” Peralta said. “Education is one of the basic pillars in our society, and we must ensure our students receive a quality education and have the necessary opportunities to succeed.”
Temporary Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) was proud of what was accomplished.
“I thank every one of my colleagues in the Senate Republican Conference for their ideas, their energy, and their determination to improve the lives of the hardworking people they represent,” Flanagan said.
(clarifying role of IDC in the Senate)
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose
©2017 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.