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Legislature, teacher unions clash on NYC mayor’s control on schools

ALBANY — The State Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed its version of a bill to continue mayoral control of New York City schools, but the measure’s future remains uncertain because the Republican majority’s bill requires that more charter schools be allowed to open in the city.

“We have proven that we support mayoral control and we will approve it under the right circumstances,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) during a lengthy floor debate of the bill he sponsored.

The bill passed 36-26 along party lines in the chamber where 32 votes are needed to pass a bill.

The Democratic-led Assembly has passed its own bill and so far refuses to accept a provision for any more charter schools.

Democratic senators on Tuesday complained that Republicans attached a lifting of the cap on charter schools as part of granting continued control of schools to Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I know Albany and I know ‘the deal’ is paramount, but I wish this wasn’t the case,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan).

“I support mayoral control,” said Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn). “It should be done at city level rather than the state level to take the politics out of it.”

Hours earlier, the head of a major teachers union dismissed the Senate Republicans’ effort to tie the extension of mayoral control of New York City schools to more charter schools as “a load of crap.”

The pressure from politically powerful teachers unions comes as legislators begin to negotiate behind closed doors on the biggest issue in the session’s final days.

“It’s blatant hypocrisy,” added Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers at a news conference with the Senate’s minority conference of Democrats.

“New York City is the only district that has to gone through this horrendous process,” Mulgrew said. He decried the “game” by Senate Republicans of extracting unrelated measures to extending the mayoral control law, even though the GOP was strongly supportive of long extensions under their political ally and financial benefactor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“We are not going to play politics with this issue any more,” he said.

Andrew Pallotta, president of the New York State United Teachers union, called charter schools part of the “DeVos station” of public education. He was referring to President Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who supports charter schools and vouchers for families to choose a public or private school.

“By law, charter schools are public schools,” said Flanagan in a competing news conference. “I care about every one of those kids. . . . We believe in mayoral control and, frankly, I don’t care who the mayor is.

“When we talk about charter schools, it’s all about public education,” Flanagan said.

The mayoral control law expires June 30. In 2002 it replaced a system of community school boards to make one elected official accountable for schools’ performance.

The legislature’s session is scheduled to end June 21.

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