NYS Senate renews mayoral control of schools

This just in — the State Senate has voted 47 to 8 to renew legislation that allows Mayor Bloomberg to have control over the New York City schools. According to the Times: (More at the Observer’s Politicker blog and Daily News Daily Politics blog)

The legislation largely leaves the mayor’s total power over the schools in place, though there are changes in the way contracts are approved and it allows for more oversight by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The Senate also passed amendments that, among other provisions, would establish a parent training institute and an arts council for the city. The Assembly would have to approve those amendments for them to take effect, though the city has promised to begin implementing them immediately.

But the changes do little reassure the mayor’s critics, who say his power has gone unchecked for the last six years.

The Senate passed four separate amendments to the bill that will have to be taken under consideration by the Assembly, which is expected to return to Albany next month to discuss cuts in the state budget.

Besides the parent training center and arts council, the amendments would give school district superintendents greater authority over the monitoring of schools and require every school to have an annual meeting with parents to discuss school safety and the officers who police the schools. John L. Sampson, the Democratic leader of the Senate, pushed for the school safety meetings, writing in support of the amendment that “there is concern that the school safety provisions currently used in New York City schools has may lead to the schools being ‘over-policed.’ ”

The relatively minor changes will do little to change the overarching power the mayor has over the city schools. There were no changes, for example, in the make up of the Panel for Educational Policy, which replaced the Board of Education. The mayor still appoints 8 of its 13 members and can remove his appointees at will.

State Senator Daniel Squadron, who was one of two senators to bring the bill to the Senate for Bloomberg, fired off the following statement soon after the vote:

“Today, New York State’s 62 Senators put New York City’s 1.1 million schoolchildren first. This bill increases transparency and parental involvement while preserving a clear line of authority that holds the mayor accountable for the performance of the schools. With this bill, parents will have a stronger voice and will never have to wonder who is responsible for their children’s education. With continued oversight, this bill will help us close the achievement gap, increase graduation rates and move us toward providing a world-class education for every single child in this city.”

According to the Daily News’ Liz Benjamin, the debate got quite heated today about Squadron:

The debate, which lasted for about two hours, reached a fever pitch when Sen. Shirley Huntley, who had been a holdout and outspoken critic of mayoral control, took the floor. … She then turned her fire on fellow member of her conference, Sen. Dan Squadron, who carried the Assembly bill for the mayor along with GOP Sen. Frank Padavan.
“Listen to Sen. Squadron…he seems to know so much about children, which is amazing since he’s barely an adult himself,” said Huntley.”

BP Markowitz also issued the following statement:

“I commend the State Senate for, as always, putting the best interests of our city school children first. I am confident that, with final legislative approval, the return of school governance will provide the stability our students, parents, teacher and schools need to make a smooth transition into the new school year and continue moving New York City public schools to the head of the class. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg, the Senate Democratic leadership and the temporary Board of Education convened following the sunset of mayoral control for working together in making our children ‘priority one’ and empowering parents, which I have always said was necessary to enhance the delivery of quality education and to ensure more accountability and transparency in the system. It’s time to get back to class and do what should always be at the top of every lesson plan—provide a quality education to the students of New York City.”

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