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Should NYC's Mayor Maintain Control Over City Schools? State Lawmakers Want To Hear From You

New York City’s public schools have been under mayoral control since 2002. That’s when state lawmakers handed the reins of the nation’s largest school system to the Bloomberg administration.

Two decades later, amid the rocky realities of pandemic schooling and a newly minted mayoral administration, the fate of the policy is again in question.

On Monday, the state legislature announced it will hold a virtual public hearing on March 4th to examine the future of mayoral control of the public school system, which is to expire on June 30th unless the state agrees to extend the policy. The policy has been extended numerous times since it was first enacted in 2002, and requires approval by the state legislature.

State Senator John Liu, who chairs the Senate Committee on NYC Education, said he believes dissatisfaction with mayoral control is widespread among parents, teachers, and other stakeholders, and that he’s seeking ideas and suggestions on how the system can work better.

“Many other major cities throughout the country don’t have the same kind of mayoral control we have here in NYC,” Liu said in an interview. . “That’s not to say that it’s not the best system for such a large system as ours in New York City. But the purpose of the hearing is to consider the problems, perhaps consider what has worked and determine how best to have our schools run in the coming years.”

Governor Kathy Hochul has signaled her support for mayoral control, with a four-year extension of the system included in her proposed budget last month.

Mayor Eric Adams has also said he wants to extend mayoral control. At a February 9th budget hearing in Albany, Adams told lawmakers, “I need four years, and I really need your help to give me an opportunity to finally turn around the school system that has failed children.”

In response to today’s announcement, the mayor reiterated his plea for an extension.

“Mayoral accountability allows us to support our students and schools as we emerge from the pandemic. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Albany to best prioritize our students and ensure our schools are the safest and most supportive environments possible,” Adams said in a statement Monday.

Opponents have said the system of mayoral control has left out key stakeholders like parents and educators, and has done little to improve persistent issues of inequity.

In an op-ed published in the Gotham Gazette earlier this month, two parent advocates — NeQuan McLean and Shino Tanikawa — who both serve on city education panels, said that 20 years of mayoral control under two previous administrations has not benefited the school system.

“New York City is one of the most segregated school systems in the nation — and our Black, brown, immigrant, low-income students, and students with disabilities continue to be neglected by a system that was created to serve white and affluent students,” they wrote.

While not calling for the total dismantling of mayoral control, the United Federation of Teachers union has challenged the current system, arguing it’s in need of “necessary checks and balances.” Specifically, it’s asked for greater input on the education panels by parents who aren’t appointed by the mayor.

“In the coming months, we will be pressing state lawmakers to fix the problems with the current form of mayoral control before they extend it,” the UFT said in a February 17th editorial posted on its website.

Liu said the issues with mayoral control go beyond who currently occupies the mayor’s office.

“This isn’t a decision based on the de Blasio administration, or on the Adams administration,” Liu said. “It’s really to see what has worked not just in the last few months, and certainly not just within the last couple of years, but to solicit the concerns and suggestions of parents and other stakeholders and figure out how best to move forward beyond the June 30th deadline.”

The public is invited to testify at the hearing and can pre-register here: https://www.nysenate.gov/questionnaires/john-c-liu/new-york-city-education-committee-witness-registration-form

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