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De Blasio presses for mayoral control of New York City schools

State legislative leaders remained deadlocked Wednesday morning on negotiating an extension to a soon-to-expire law that grants New York City’s mayor control over the city school system.

In Albany, the state Senate and Assembly’s top leaders emerged from a one-hour, closed-door session with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, reporting no progress on negotiating an extension to the mayoral control law.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference urging lawmakers to renew the 15-year-old measure before adjourning this year’s legislative session.

“If they don’t get this done today, or worst case by June 30th, then all bets are off as to what happens thereafter,” de Blasio said, noting that once the mayoral control law expires on July 1, the school system would revert to being run by a seven-member board of education, stacked with political appointees, and 32 separate community school boards.

De Blasio was joined by Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the former chief academic officer under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, a government watchdog group, all of whom said the city’s improving graduation rates, and the launch of its Universal Pre-K program, were evidence mayoral control has been successful and worth renewing.

“It’s about stability, when you finally have something that works,” Fariña said of the mayoral control law first passed in 2002 after a push by Bloomberg.

Dadey said the old system was “rife with corruption,” adding that he believed mayoral control should be made permanent to avoid the “political horse trading” that has been involved in renewing the measure.

In Albany, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said he continues to tie extension of mayoral control beyond the end of month to expanding more charter schools in the city. The Senate’s Republican majority and their financial backers strongly support charter schools, but many Democrats and the closely allied teachers unions oppose the publicly funded, privately run schools.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), after the meeting with Cuomo, repeated his position that the Democratic-led chamber would not vote on an extension linked to charter school expansion.

“We’re not going to pass a bill with charter schools,” Heastie said.

Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), leader of the Independent Democratic Conference that is closely allied with the GOP majority, said he was “still optimistic we are going to get it.”

The legislative leaders said they expect to end the 2017 legislative session as scheduled Wednesday night, but several rank-and-file lawmakers said they are prepared to stay longer.

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