Mayoral Control and Charter Schools: Pawns on the Chessboard of Politics

Back in the eighties a major issue in Albany was the death penalty; Republicans and DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) supported a death penalty law opposed by progressive Democrats. After a few years a death penalty law passed in both houses and Governor Cuomo pere vetoed the bill; the legislature overrode the veto – New York State had a death penalty law.

A few years later a Republican operative bemoaned the passage, “It was stupid, we gave up a great election issue.”

Politics is about gaining advantage, the Republicans “intimation” that Obama was not born in the nation, constant subtle racism, Bengazi, e-mails, etc.,  have nothing to do with policy, in fact, the only policy issue – “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, is turning out to be a major negative for Republicans.

The consistent attacks worked, a Republican president, although for the party insiders the wrong Republican and both houses of Congress.

In New York State linking mayoral control to charter schools has enabled the Senate Republicans to collect substantial campaign dollars from charter school supporters across the nation by forcing reluctant Democrats to support charter school issues in order to retain mayoral control.

This year the Assembly Democrats taking a firm line.

Both houses of the state legislature, the Assembly and the Senate will adjourn on Wednesday, June 21st.

If mayoral control is not renewed New York City will revert to the prior management model – decentralization. A seven-member school board: one appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor and 40 elected school boards, the elections would be held in May, 2018. (See decentralization law here). Virtually everyone, from the Governor to both houses of the legislature to the editorial boards of the newspapers to the good government groups totally reject a return to the previous management model – decentralization.

The legislature had three days to find common ground.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control and in the same bill included tax extenders for a number of local communities, in Republican districts, that in prior years were routinely passed and are non-controversial. If the tax extenders do not pass the communities would face serious fiscal hardships.

The Republican-controlled Senate introduced three bills, all linking mayoral control to pro-charter school legislation.

The Speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, stated under no circumstances would mayoral control be linked to pro-charter school legislation.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced a  “Transparency and Accountability for Charter School Funding  bill,

This bill would provide enhanced transparency and accountability of charter schools in regards to enrollment targets, discipline policies,management and operation of the charter school, charter reserve funds,charter facilities rental aid payments, information disseminated to parents regarding probationary status, and residency dispute issues.

Read the entire bill here.

Governor has made his position clear, and, was pessimistic in an interview,

ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo expressed pessimism that the expiring law giving Mayor de Blasio control over the city school system will be renewed before the state Legislature ends its annual session next week.

… he believes any solution should include a three-year extension of the law coupled with pro-charter school provisions …

“The question is do they care enough to do it,” he said of the Assembly and Senate reaching a compromise agreement. “I would bet against it. They could have made this compromise a long time ago (during budget talks).”

Asked if he’s disturbed the governor seems to be siding with the Senate GOP rather than with his fellow Dems in the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “same song, different day.”

If no law is passed the legislature goes home the demise of mayoral control remains in the headlines. With minimal opposition Mayor de Blasio will be re-elected; the gubernatorial and legislative races aren’t until 2018.

The Republicans can simply walk away, allow mayor control to revert to decentralization, and absorb the criticism.

The Democrats can hold the line – mayoral control is not linked to charter schools.

The Governor can attack, as he frequently does, in his words, the dysfunctional legislature.

Or, a compromise, renew mayoral control, raise the New York City cap on the number of charter schools and pass parts of the Charter School Transparency and Accountability in Funding bill, or, a compromise that makes no sense to anyone, except the legislature.

Pure crass politics, basic ideological beliefs and egos all clash.

In the calculus of politics who gains and who loses, who is the better chess player?

If no bill is passed the legislature can return later in the summer or after election day; however, special sessions are rare.

19th century German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck is credited with saying: “The two things you don’t want to see made in person are sausages and laws.”

A wise man.

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