BLASIO IS ‘OUT’ OF CONTROL
Risks losing school reins over refusal to budge on charters
Mayor de Blasio dug in his heels on charter schools Monday, as the fierce debate threatened to cost him control of the city’s school system and bring back the bad old days of the Board of Ed.
At a City Hall rally, de Blasio claimed he’s done everything he can to accommodate charters, and offered to “sit down anytime, anywhere” for “a constructive dialogue about how we can work with charter schools and with parents who are in charter schools.”
He predicted dire consequences if he loses his showdown with state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who wants to lift the cap on the number of privately run public schools in the city.
Flanagan’s plan, passed by the Senate, would authorize 40 new city charters, in addition to 23 already slated to open in September.
But with the law granting mayoral control over city schools set to expire at midnight on June 30 — and Albany’s legislative session ending on Wednesday — Hizzoner faced the prospect of a crushing defeat that he has said would return “chaos” and “corruption” to education in the city.
“Mayor de Blasio is playing chicken with the futures of 48,000plus students waiting for a shot at a better education through charter schools. Parents should be appalled,” said Brandon Muir of the pro-charter group Reclaim New York. “It’s a no-brainer to lift the charter-school cap and extend mayoral control,” he added,
A spokeswoman for Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy, which runs 41 charter schools, claimed de Blasio “has been anything but fair to charter- school families from the moment he took office.”
Hizzoner’s offenses range “from evicting Harlem’s highest-performing middle-schoolers to stonewalling parents for months on end, only to offer inadequate temporary solutions, despite the 144,000 empty seats across the city,” said the spokeswoman, Nicole Sizemore.
Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, a mayoral ally on education, countered that “charter schools shouldn’t be playing politics with children as pawns.”
“Holding the public-school system hostage for charter-school expansion isn’t right,” said Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side. “Parents in my district aren’t asking for more charter school seats. They’re asking for more seats in traditional public schools.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) also turned up the heat, vowing Monday that he wouldn’t convene a special session later this year if the matter isn’t settled by Wednesday.
“We’re not coming back,” Heastie said.
The state in 2002 handed control of the city schools to then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg under a law that briefly expired in 2009 before being renewed for six years.
De Blasio sought a permanent extension — which he then scaled back to three years — before winning just a one-year renewal in 2015. Lawmakers granted him another one-year extension last year.
On Monday, de Blasio said reconstituting the Board of Ed and its 32 local school boards could cost city taxpayers $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.
He also said losing control of the school system could mean the end of his popular “pre-K for all” program.
De Blasio made his remarks surrounded by a crowd of supporters from various unions, but the United Federation of Teachers was conspicuously absent.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement shortly after the rally ended, saying, “Mayoral control should not be a matter for debate, and doesn’t need the UFT to defend it.”
De Blasio — who spoke twice Monday with Flanagan to broker an agreement — avoided direct attacks on him. But others took aim at the Long Island Republican.
“How dare Flanagan, from Suffolk County, tell us what is good for our children,” state NAACP President Hazel Dukes fumed. “The neighborhoods of his district in Suffolk don’t look like any district in New York City.”
After a meeting with Gov. Cuomo, who sources said was also trying to broker a deal, Flanagan said “there’s still plenty of time to negotiate.”
Holding the public-school system hostage for charterschool expansion isn’t right. City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) Mayor de Blasio is playing chicken with the futures of 48,000-plus students waiting for a shot at a better education through charter schools. — Brandon Muir of Reclaim New York
Mayor de Blasio is belatedly predicting doom if the Legislature lets mayoral control of the schools lapse. So why won’t he back a compromise that saves it and harms no one? The law expires June 30 unless lawmakers renew it by Wednesday’s end of session. And the Assembly, at the behest of de Blasio and the teachers unions, refuses to back any of three Senate-passed bills to extend it.
If mayoral control goes, de Blasio warned Monday, “We would have to reconstitute the old Board of Education,” with no one person naming a majority of its seven members, and no one voters could hold to account.
“This is the great unknown,” he insists, leading to “chaos” and “corruption.”
In fact, mayoral control lapsed once before, but then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to find a deal that restored it. So why won’t this mayor push the Assembly to compromise and back a Senate bill?
After all, de Blasio is on record as not opposing charter schools, which the Senate bills boost by allowing more charter growth here in the city. In 2014, he warned against “pitting” charters against the regular publicschool system.
And last year, he told a student to see beyond the (widespread) perception that he’s anti-charter: “It’s not shocking that in politics things get distilled down to a sentence,” he said. But there’s a “much richer” story of “working together.”
“Working together” for the good of both systems is all the Senate’s looking to do. If he truly doesn’t oppose charters, it wouldn’t even be a concession. Was the mayor lying to a schoolchild?
As for de Blasio’s claim that renewal should be a “pure” bill . . . Well, that’s remarkably naive for a fellow who not long ago was trading access to City Hall favors for campaign donations to produce a Senate more to his liking.
Would he rather lose control of the schools than face down the teachers union, which hates charters?
The union will be fine if mayoral control lapses — its power won’t suffer. But it’s a sad sack of a mayor indeed who’ll accept humiliation rather than cross a special interest.