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Senate expected to OK Bloomberg control of schools

ALBANY - The State Senate is expected Thursday to give final approval to a bill extending Mayor Michael Bloomberg's control over the New York City public schools and to amendments that boost parental input, safety and the arts.

The one-day session would end a battle between Senate Democrats and the mayor. The months-long dispute degenerated to name calling when African-American senators compared Bloomberg to plantation owners and he likened them to Nazis.

But the sides emerged with a compromise on July 24 that addressed the senators' concerns about parents being ignored by educators. The mayor said he would implement the Senate's amendments regardless of whether they become law.

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx) Wednesday touted the changes as providing $1.6 million for centers to train parents on how to advocate for students. They also bolster "the role of the most experienced professional - superintendents - on the local school level, providing them with the autonomy to review curriculum and supervise every aspect of the schools," he said.

Still, the Assembly may not embrace the amendments. Some members see the Senate changes as grandstanding and not substantive improvements over the bill negotiated by Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), sources said.

Asked the likely fate of the Senate amendments, Silver spokesman Dan Weiller said "the speaker will be reviewing them" with the Assembly's Democratic majority. He added that no date had been set for the lower chamber to reconvene, although Gov. David A. Paterson has said he will call a special session next month to tackle the $2.1-billion deficit.

Senate Republicans are expected to unanimously back a six-year extension of mayoral control. Bloomberg is the largest individual campaign donor to the Senate GOP.

Senators also will take up a bill creating 21 Family Court judgeships, including one each in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The bill attempts to address rising caseloads.

Two gubernatorial appointments will be considered: Dennis Rosen to be chairman of the state Liquor Authority, and Mark D. Cohen of Stony Brook to continue as a Court of Claims judge.

Sen. Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) blocked Cohen's reappointment last month, hoping for a replacement. He objected to Cohen's 12 years as the top aide to former Suffolk County District Attorney James M. Catterson Jr., a combative prosecutor who Democrats said unfairly targeted them for investigation. Foley relented after being told of the Capitol tradition in which governors don't nix the appointments of their predecessors.

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